Solar Cooking: Blackberry Muffins

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Summer and blackberry foraging go hand in hand. And alongside them goes the heat of the season. Better make the most of it! Solar cooking time.

The tinyhouse on a hot day is a delicious little envelope of coolness that I would not mess with for the world. And we only have a woodstove anyways, so baking is out. Commence solar cooking experiments… 

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The blackberries are a little small this year, given the lack of rain hereabouts. While they’re not as plump as last year, the heat makes them sweeter.

And if you feel towards blackberries the way I feel towards blackberries, size is so not an issue.

Because blackberry foraging is actually about the quiet, the slowness, the cool of the morning, the little wrens’ nests you find in the brambles mid-hunt, and the promise of a bucket-full of black gold, at the end.

The downside of small blackberries is that the seed-to-blackberry ratio is lessened, so if you stew them, it’s a very, very seedy (but still tasty) result. So i thought best to sprinkle them on something baked.

In our house, ‘something baked’ often defaults to becoming banana muffins. Because i know the mix by heart, because it consistently works, and because everyone eats them with gusto, always.

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Milkwood Farm’s fail-safe basic cake mix

  • 4 oz olive oil (or butter, or whatever your fat of choice is)
  • 6 oz sugar (or honey)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 mashed bananas OR 2 oranges – grated rind and juice
  • 2 C SR flour
  • 1/4 C milk (or milk kefir if you have it)
  • splash of vanilla essence
  • nuts and seedy things of your choice

Firstly, a note that you can substitute whatever else you like for the banana volume – we’ve done peach, apple, berries, orange etc.

Just think in terms of the sweetness, squishiness and moisture level of 3 mashed bananas, and keep that in mind when you’re substituting whatever else.

Mix in order of ingredients, and there you have it. If making a cake, stick in a lined tin. Bake at 160 c ish 55-65 mins.

If making muffins (ok cupcakes, really) spoon ‘em out and bake at 190 C for 10-15 minutes (these cooking times are for a normal oven).

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And into the solar oven. I don’t use this as much as I should, partly because it needs nudging fairly regularly to keep it pointed in the right direction, in order to capture maximum heat.

Therefore in my mind, solar cooking is a weekend option – for the days when you’re not quite so crazy busy, and more likely to remember to tweak it’s position every hour or so.

Also, solar cooking is (from my experience) best suited to things that cook sloooowly. Like brown rice. Or stews.

Muffins don’t generally fall into the ‘slow cooking’ category but I figured what the heck, my banana cake mix hasn’t failed me yet, and we sure have plenty of solar-ness about just now.

And what is Saturday without a spot of experimental solar cooking?

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Three hours later (i may have gotten a little too involved in making dragon traps with Ashar, I rekon these could have done with one hour less)…..

It’s solar muffins, people!

And cooked without a jot of wood fired or fossil fuel energy (no polar ice caps were melted in the cooking of these muffins).

Just using that good ‘ol power station in the sky, which incidentally sustains all life on earth. Nice one. Thanks, Sun.

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Do you dabble in solar cooking? What do you use? What do you like to cook best? We’d love to know so we can expand our repertoire – thanks in advance…

Notes: the solar oven we have is a SunCook – no kickback here, so fear not. I think it’s pretty good and quite robust, though it has some design aspects I would change. I can’t actually remember where we got it, but there’s a swag of solar cooking options at this website, including the Suncook.

>> More posts about Appropriate Technology here

18 Comments

  1. Posted February 4, 2014 at 8:01 am | Permalink | Reply

    Looks great! It’s the dead of winter here in Colorado, but with the strong sunshine we get, it would be fun to try your solar muffins this summer. Thanks for sharing the recipe and beautiful pics!

    • Posted February 4, 2014 at 8:28 am | Permalink | Reply

      Actually, on all the solar cooking sites there’s pics of peeps doing solar cooking in the snow… so assuming you have a sunny day, maybe give it a try?

  2. Wessel
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 8:04 am | Permalink | Reply

    Looks amazing! Have you ever tried the Stevia rebaudiana plant, it’s a natural sweetener.

  3. Posted February 4, 2014 at 8:13 am | Permalink | Reply

    Yumm! Was just looking for a recipe for muffins, perfect timing! Although – in our corner of the world (Finland) it’ll be blueberries from the freezer this time of the year :)

  4. Lauren
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 8:40 am | Permalink | Reply

    I have a friend who has his solar oven in a wheelbarrow so he can easily move it in the path/direction off the sun.

    He makes a mean baked cauliflour.

  5. Posted February 4, 2014 at 9:42 am | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Kirsten,
    You can see some home-built options on Nev’s blog “Under the Choko Tree”. He has built simple slow cookers from styrofoam boxes but also more complex cookers, for example the one using mirrors arranged on a parabolic surface. Worth checking out

    http://www.underthechokotree.com/

    Margaret of Vivid Edible Gardens

  6. Rosie
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 10:45 am | Permalink | Reply

    That is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, thanks for sharing! I’m showing my husband this when he gets home :)

  7. Posted February 4, 2014 at 11:19 am | Permalink | Reply

    This is a fabulous idea and the finished product looks delicious! Definitely one to experiment with!

  8. Sharn
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 11:20 am | Permalink | Reply

    Nice Kirsten! Solar oven is on my list to make. I have a sun rocket, which is good for camping but really, who wants a scalding hot cuppa on a 40 degree day? Were the muffins dry at all from the long baking time? Ashar looks impressed none-the-less :)

    • Posted February 4, 2014 at 11:46 am | Permalink | Reply

      They were not too dry! That’s where the magic banana-power comes in…

  9. Posted February 4, 2014 at 6:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Kirsten,
    brilliant, very inspiring, will put solar oven on my list of things to do!!!
    can I reblog on my site?

  10. Posted February 5, 2014 at 4:39 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks for the story! We have our slow cooking ovens on old office chair stands so they are easy to swivel. Also, our Solar Wall Oven design doesn’t have internal reflectors so they don’t need to be turned as often as your design, perhaps. I have a recent blog post about cooking a solar stew on our website: http://www.ampersandproject.org
    Amanda

  11. Posted February 5, 2014 at 7:54 am | Permalink | Reply

    haha hello! My name is Heather and yep, I sold you your solar oven years back, I”m so glad you’re enjoying it! Please dont forget that you have an extra reflective pannel in the top lid – simply pull it up and it will boost your efficiency. Also, to avoid having to turn it towards the sun too often, just have it a few degrees north west and then as the sun moves, it will still be pretty well alligned. We had our first solar cooking workshop at my house in Wallsend over the weekend and our next one 2nd March, free to come, check out a range of solar oven designs and sample some solar cooked foods. if you have any solar cooking questions please do ask! :) Heather

  12. Posted February 6, 2014 at 12:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

    That’s so awesome! Love it!

  13. Spud
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 4:38 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Sounds like you are still learning to use the SunCook oven. It will cook lots of different food really well, albeit a bit slower than a kitchen oven, but that’s not a bad thing. Your food is unlikely to burn and it is forgiving re cooking times, as you have discovered. I have done the best lamb shanks ever in mine, and cakes turn out really nice and moist. Great for chick peas, rice etc too.

  14. Posted February 10, 2014 at 11:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

    looks amazing! pity that the blackberries in my garden are over, but safe in the coming days I’ll be able to do more and so this recipe for live food.

    Works without eggs?
    Greetings from Brazil!

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