I can’t remember the last time I baked sugar cookies. I don’t have the patience, let alone the skill, for fancy decoration. Food coloring or decorating sugars are not things I keep on hand, and, at least until now, it was hard to fit very many cookies in the Sun Oven at one time, but after my recent cake calamity I was left with a craving for something sweet. When I saw a sugar cookie baking mix at Trader Joe’s I couldn’t resist.
The dehydrating racks took care of the space issue. The mix comes with frosting and sparkling sugar and, with a yield of only about two dozen, I managed to muster up the patience to frost them. Cookie cutters were not an issue. I pick them up at yard sales or thrift stores, and now have an extensive collection of them, so it was nice to get a chance to use a few.
We were among the thousands of Los Angeles area residents without power after the massive windstorm Thursday night so I finally got to use my Sun Oven in an emergency situation. What did I make? Cookies, of course. I thought, based on the estimate given to us by the power company, that the outage would be fixed by early evening. If I’d known we’d be without power until the following day I might have rustled together something for dinner instead, but cookies were on my schedule so that’s what I made. We had just enough sunshine to get the job done.
Big Sun Oven Oatmeal Cookies
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
I’m sure I’m not the only one that looked at the new dehydrating racks and thought “Could they be used for baking?” The answer is yes. Today I baked a full batch of drop cookies, over three dozen, in two Sun Oven loads. The same as it would have taken to bake them in a conventional oven. The top layer baked slightly faster, but by less than five minutes, pretty much the time it took to take the top layer inside and transfer the cookies to a cooling rack.
Sun Oven Muesli Cookies
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Refrigerator cookies are great for solar baking. The dough can be kept in the fridge several days or frozen up to six months. Just slice off the number of cookies you want to bake and pop them in the Sun Oven. The baking times are almost the same as in a conventional oven.
Chocolate and Vanilla Pinwheels
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
Last Sunday’s biscotti adventure was so much fun I wanted to give it another go; not to mention the fact that we polished off the last one days ago. But two batches of cookies that contain over a stick of butter in two weeks is a little too much for my monthly calorie budget. I had to find a different recipe. The literal translation of ‘biscotti’, by the way, is ‘cookies’. In Italy it could mean any kind of cookie, not just the kind we have come to know as ‘biscotti’ here in the U.S.
Last week’s biscotti would probably be called something like ‘Biscotti della Nonna’ (Grandma’s cookies) and the ones I made today would be called ‘Cantuccini’. Cantuccini, a Tuscan take on biscotti, are very dry and are traditionally served with a Port-like wine called ‘Vin Santo’ for dunking. They’re also good dunked in milk, coffee, or tea but, in my opinion, are too dry to eat on their own. I’m still undecided on whether I prefer last week’s butter laden biscotti or today’s leaner cantuccini but I do like how well they both come out in the Sun Oven.
3 large eggs, plus 1 egg white
1 cup sugar
Over the weekend I baked biscotti in my Sun Oven for the first time, actually it was the first time I’ve baked biscotti period; Sun Oven or no Sun Oven. It was a bit of a project and, as with most first time projects, there are a few things I’d do differently next time. Most of the changes I’d make are a matter of logistics. Biscotti are baked twice; first, the dough is shaped into two logs which are baked, cooled, and then sliced before baking the cookies a second time.
As with most cookie recipes the main issue was fitting them into the cooking chamber. I did manage to find two baking pans that would accommodate both logs and be cross-stacked to fit in the cooking chamber, however, next time I’d bake them in two separate batches. Here’s why; in my baking experience I’ve found that in the Sun Oven, the bottom pan always takes longer to bake, the total baking time was just over an hour.
Both logs need to cool at least 25 minutes before slicing, and there’s no way to fit all the sliced biscotti in the cooking chamber in one go. It would be better to bake one log at a time. They would bake faster and the first one would be cooling while the second one bakes. Then, the first batch of sliced biscotti would bake while the second log cools. By doing the first round of baking in two batches the overall cooking time should be considerably less, I’d say by at least an hour. The recipe itself needed no modification, apart from the cooking times; click here if you’d like to see it.
On a final note, if you make these biscotti, get the anise seed in the hispanic spice section of your supermarket where it cost only 99¢, the other stuff was over $7.00 a jar!
My cousin Liz makes the best coconut macaroons; so good that she sells them made to order. Today we were finally able to bake a batch in my Sun Ovens.
It was pretty much a day of experimentation, mostly trying to find the best way to fit the most macaroons in the Sun Oven at the same time. Her recipe (which unfortunately I forgot to get from her) makes about two dozen rather large macaroons.
I went over to her house equipped with mini-muffin pans and a square tart pan. My plan was to use the muffin pans which would have each held 12 cookies, that was until I saw the size of the cookies. The mini-muffin pans were definitely too small, and, as my cousin explained, the macaroons are very sticky; any bakeware would need to be lined with parchment paper.
We managed to fit four on the square tart pan and popped them in the Sun Oven while we rummaged around her kitchen for another suitable baking sheet. The first batch of four was baked to perfection in 18 minutes, the same as in a conventional oven. That was good, but we wanted to fit more in at a time. We opted for standard sized muffin pans with paper liners. Unfortunately the macaroons stuck to the liners. They were still good enough to eat and we all had fun eating the stuck on bits, but not good enough for professional baking.
I see another day of experimentation in our future.
I like making bar cookies because I can bake a whole batch in one go. You’ll need two toaster oven sized rimmed pans for this recipe. Cross stack them in the Sun Oven to bake all the cookies in one go.
Sun Oven Almond Apricot Bars
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup apricot jam
Set Sun Oven out to preheat
Blend together flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor, then add butter and blend until a dough begins to form. Transfer to a bowl and knead in oats and almonds until combined.
Reserve 3/4 cup dough, then press remainder evenly into the bottom of two buttered 7- by 9- inch metal baking pans* and spread jam over it. Crumble reserved dough evenly over jam, then sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup almonds.
Bake in preheated Sun Oven approx. 40 minutes. If you are baking both pans at once, the top one will bake slightly faster. Cool completely in pans on a rack. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, then lift out in one piece and transfer to a cutting board.
Cut into 24 bars.
*pans can also be lined with parchment paper instead of buttering them.
The Sun Oven can do a lot, but not every thing. It won’t replace your grill. Sun Oven burgers would be more like meatloaf and steak, well I don’t even want to go there.
The Fourth of July weekend doesn’t have to be all about the grill. While the burgers and brats are sizzling away the Sun Oven can be on baking duty and provide some of the day’s entertainment. You could have an endless supply of freshly baked cookies. Trader Joe’s has some really good frozen dough that will make your life a lot easier or if you insist you can make your own. Bake them in small batches and let the kids help keep an eye on them.
If your guests have never seen the Sun Oven in action before, it can easily become the cookout’s main attraction; at least until the fireworks start.
According to Wikipedia, Garibaldi biscuits first appeared during a period of wartime rationing in the mid 1800′s and were named after the Italian general who led the fight to unify Italy; Giuseppe Garibaldi. They were first manufactured in 1861 in Britain and are still available today. In the U.S. they were know as Golden Raisin Biscuits and were made with raisins as opposed to the currants of their British counterparts. The U.S. version is no longer available, but the British one can be found online and in specialty food stores. They were always one of my favorite cookies, not too sweet and with a slightly chewy texture, so I was very pleased to find a recipe for a similar cookie on the King Arthur Flour website not too long ago. I have since made two batches, the first time I followed the recipe to the t. The following has been tweaked just a bit.
Sun Oven Cranberry Orange Garibaldi’s
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces