In the summer, I frequently cook lunch using three different types of solar cookers. Two simple reflection cookers heat grains, fast-cooking legumes, and vegetables. My high-tech GoSun cooker roasts potatoes and bakes bread or cupcakes in a glass tube like the tubes used for solar water heaters.
We were among the 220,000 households that lost power last week in central North Carolina. The first day was cloudy, not good for solar cooking. Fortunately, our power was off for only twelve hours, coming back on just in time to make dinner.
The next day was sunny, with temperatures in the mid-forties and little wind. I cut up an apple and made biscuit batter with a little extra sugar and cinnamon (see recipe below). I layered these in my most efficient solar cooker and put it in a sunny spot on the low brick wall by the driveway. The cooker pointed toward the sun with its parabolic reflectors angled to direct sunlight to the cooking tube. It was already 2:00 in the afternoon, past the ideal time for solar cooking, but the cooker is so fast I thought it was worth trying.
When I checked on the cooker forty-five minutes later, it was cooling off rapidly. I'd miscalculated how far the shadow from the tall house next door would come into my yard. Even so, the biscuits on top had started to rise.
Fortunately, the cooker is very portable, so I moved it to the front walk. After another hour, the smell of cinnamon apples greeted me as I went to check for progress. Steam rose from the open end of the tube. The biscuit mix was brown with crisp edges and the apples had begun to caramelize.
I took the whole setup into the kitchen, scooped out the apple cobbler, and served it apple-side up in bowls. My Taster and I were happy to have such a healthy, warm dessert. As a bonus, we felt good knowing that the next time the power goes out, we can have hot meals on sunny days even in the winter. Next time, I'll remember to check the cooker more often for encroaching shadows. I'll also look up to avoid branches that might drop snow or drip on the cooker.
Sunny Apple Cobbler
Easier than apple pie and with less fat, this solar-cooked cobbler shows that comfort food is possible even off the grid. Yield 3 servings.
• 1 sweet cooking apple, perhaps a Fuji, Gala, or Pink Lady
• 1 cup Bisquick-style baking mix (I use the healthy Good Baking Mix in Fifty Weeks of Green)
• 1/3 cup sugar plus 1 tbsp sugar
• 1/2 tsp cinnamon
• 1/3 cup water
• shortening for the cooking tube
1. Core the apple and cut into small pieces.
2. Put the baking mix, 1/3 cup sugar, and cinnamon in a medium bowl and stir to mix.
3. Add water and stir until just combined with no dry baking mix remaining.
4. Grease cooking tray with shortening.
5. Spread apples in the tray and drop batter evenly on top by the spoonful.
6. To keep the batter from sticking to the glass tube if it rises too much, cut a strip of parchment paper as long as the cooking tray and about a half-inch wider. Fold the paper lengthwise down the center and then place this parchment “tent” over the cobbler.
7. Slide the covered cooking tray into the tube. Wearing your sunglasses and taking the usual precautions to not damage your eyes, orient the cooker to capture the sun's rays.
8. Bake until the top is brown and firm and apples are tender. Check for doneness when you see steam coming from the end of the tube and smell a delicious apple-cinnamon fragrance. The cooking time will vary widely, but may be as little as 35 minutes in the summer.
To serve, flip the cobbler as you scoop it into bowls so the pretty apple side is on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Photos by Linda Watson (c) 2015 Cook for Good, used by permission.
See Linda's other solar cookers on her website, Cook for Good, where you can also find thrifty, healthy recipes and tips. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. She is the author of Wildly Affordable Organic: Eat Fabulous Food, Get Healthy, and Save the Planet-All on $5 a Day or Less and Fifty Weeks of Green: Romance & Recipes.
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