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As Hot as an Oven
Aug 2, 2012
I’m not one to complain about the weather, but I’ll admit this year’s heat is taking its toll. The trees here on Pearl Street in Yankton look like they’re ready to give up. My garden hangs on, but doesn't want to produce. Even my normally outgoing and gregarious father is telling people that he’s gone as dormant as his lawn this summer. The twinkle in his eyes is fading, and when you ask him what’s new, he says, “Nothing. It’s too g-d d----d hot.” Unfamiliar words from a notorious mischief-maker and stirrer of pots.
This is no good. It’s one thing to lay low for a while, but when one’s creativity goes into hibernation, it’s time to take action. There must be an upside to this miserable summer besides the comparative lack of mosquitos. How can we use the heat to our advantage?
A picture posted on Facebook provided one answer. Why not use my car as a sort of solar oven on wheels? It’s like a larger-scale version of the pizza box solar oven popular with Boy Scouts and, like the summer kitchens used back in the days before air conditioning, it keeps heat from cooking out of my house.
Here’s the general idea.
- Preheat your car. Leave it out in the sun until it gets nice and toasty inside. When the outside temperature is over 100, this shouldn’t take too long.
- Place a protective towel on the dashboard.
- Stir up cookie dough or use store bought slice-and-bake cookies. Use an eggless recipe if you’re worried about salmonella.
- Place dough on cookie sheets and stick them on the dash.
- Allow the concentrated heat of the sun to bake the dough.
- Grab your potholders and remove cookies when they have browned. This takes several hours.
- Remove from pans and enjoy.
Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? My results were more-or-less edible, but disappointing. The cookies dried, but never really browned. After some reflection, I think I've figured out where I went wrong.
- Timing. I didn’t get started early enough, and missed out on some great midday rays. My cookies went in the car oven at about 1 p.m. By 5 p.m. my cookies were still not done, and so I drove to my post-work knitting meet-up with two baking sheets on my dashboard, and let them cook further while I crafted. Please note: driving around with pans of hot cookies on your dash is a really bad idea. Very unsafe.
- Recipe choice. I stirred up a batch of oatmeal butterscotch, my favorite non-Christmas cookie. They're soft cookies, and since this is a long and slow method, they dried out, losing that softness. A chewy/crispy cookie might be a better option.
- Temperature. The Mazda has a light brown interior. According to the in-car thermometer, the temperature only got up to 170 degrees. I bet a car with a black interior would make a better oven, because the dark color would really soak in the heat.
- Position. Tilting the pans towards the window might’ve helped them bake faster.
Will I try this again? Probably. It won’t be for a while, though. There are no 100+ degree days forecasted in the immediate future. It’s supposed to get down to 82 this weekend, and that’s just not good car-baking weather.