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sunbaked scones

April 18, 2011

The city of Gulu is powered by a notoriously unreliable electric company called Umeme.  The name has evolved from a mere company title to the likes of a cuss word.  Power cuts just as the house is sitting down to the weekly installment of Hidden Passions, Uganda’s favorite telenovela? Hands fly to the air. “Ah, Umeme!” At times Umeme takes on  an almost human quality.  The name is uttered in the tone of Seinfeld’s famous growl, “Neewmann…” Lights flicker off just as the sun dips below the horizon?  “Umeemmee…”

For the past week, Umeme has been particularly finicky, trying everyone’s nerves with its on again off again game (emphasis on the off.) This weekend I was faced with a handful of over-ripe bananas and no Umeme to power the oven.  What’s a baker to do?  I decided to try my hand at solar-cooking.

If you google “DIY solar ovens” you’ll find quite a few designs.  Here is what I tried, roughly based on the Kyoto box:

Supplies –

  • 2 cardboard boxes, one smaller than the other
  • a sheet of glass large enough to cover the top of the smaller box
  • reflective material (aluminum foil, disposable pie tins, reflective wrappers, etc.)
  • newspaper
  • black fabric
  • flour/water paste
  • string
  • paint (optional)
To assemble the oven, remove the  top flaps from the smaller box and line the inside with black fabric scraps, using a flour/water paste.  On the larger box, staple reflective material to all four top flaps.  Attach strings to the corners of the flaps.  This will allow you to adjust the angle of the reflectors according to the direction of the sun.  Place the smaller box inside the larger one and stuff the space in between with crumpled newspaper.  The sheet of glass should fit snuggly on top of the smaller box.  I gave my outer box a coat of spray paint so it wouldn’t look quite so ugly tucked away on my shelf.  Construction complete!
To use, simply slip your unbaked item inside the smaller box and set outside on a sunny day.  A few hours later…Ta-da! Sunbaked Banana Masala Oat Scones:
My contraption may need a bit of tinkering as my scones turned out a tad goo-ier than desired, but not bad for a first attempt.  So go ahead and stay away awhile longer, Umeme.  I rather prefer the sunshine.
3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 18, 2011 5:40 pm

    I love it! And fellow Ridgefield alumnus Alexis Madrigal would be tickled, too, as his POWERING THE DREAM: THE HISTORY AND PROMISE OF GREEN TECHNOLOGY is just out:

  2. April 19, 2011 1:35 pm

    you’re my hero! banana masala oat sounds wonderful – what’s your recipe?

    solar cooking doesn’t really work well here in the rainy season, but my colleagues use it in the dry season, and we’re planning lots of solar fun when it stops raining. our solar ovens look a bit different – but not significantly so. it’s the same basic idea… in the meantime, i don’t have an oven so i’ve tried stovetop scones, but the texture, though close, is not quite the same as if they’re baked.

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