Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Solar Baked Corn Muffins

Inspired by a reader's comment on my failed cornmeal bread I dusted off my cast iron muffin pan collection last night. I had a corn bread mix that I bought a few weeks ago and all the necessary ingredients. This was great. I like going to bed knowing what I'll be solar cooking the next day almost as much as I like knowing that my solar cooked dinner will be ready when I get home from work. Now I had to choose a pan. Here are the finalists:

Fishes? Stars?

Two of my favorites, but they don't fit in the Sun Oven.

Snowmen? Christmas trees?

A little early for those.


Too cheesy.

Autumn Fruits.

Perfect. (almost)

The pan was still too big to fit in the Sun Oven without removing the leveling tray. This meant I'd have to wait until the sun was high in the sky because I would not be able to tilt the Sun Oven. I went to bed, happy knowing that today would be a light solar cooking day.
Out of habit I set the Sun Oven up first thing in the morning. I then had the bright idea that just maybe the muffins could be ready in time for breakfast. This time of year, when the sun is lower, the earliest you can start using the Sun Oven is about nine o'clock. If you've been following this blog you may have figured out by now that I am not an early riser. Nine thirty is a little late for my breakfast, but not too late. I decided to go for it. I had completely forgotten the part about waiting until the sun was at its peak until it was time to put the pan in the Sun Oven. I tried everything I could think of to fit the muffin pan in the Sun Oven, without spilling anything, while focusing it towards the low morning sun, with no success. I wound up baking the muffins at a much lower than desired temperature. By this point I'd accepted the fact that they would not be ready for breakfast and poured myself a bowl of - yawn - shredded wheat.
In spite of all that, the muffins were done by ten thirty and, apart from the fact that I overfilled the cups and they didn't really look anything like autumn fruits, they were pretty good.


  1. I'm so glad you tried again. Who cares if they look a bit amoeboid in shape... so long as they tasted good! They look tasty in the photo, like cornbread cream puffs.

    I've never liked to expend much energy on cooking... pun intended. So my husband does most of our cooking. But I just might try the sun oven thing. I like the fact that if I screw it up, I could blame it on either my inexperience or the weather. And I love the idea of conserving energy.

  2. Woohoo! Way to go. You really are inspiring me with your daily cooking. I've been so busy lately that I've neglected to cook with the sun as much as I could. I need to just set the oven out there so it's ready. (I quit doing that when we got a second dog that likes to run laps in the yard; the resulting dust covers the glass and panels of the oven. I'm also worried he might try to mark it as his if I don't keep an eye on him!)

  3. I've had to use the leg on the back of my solar oven to catch the morning sun. It's up about 3 inches. The inside tray is free hanging so it is always level - but only if I center the pan I'm cooking in. Is your cooking shelf/tray fixed in place or does it swing like mine does?

    BTW - made turkey stock today from bones & skin. Will have turkey noodle soup tomorrow.

  4. I had to take the leveling tray out so I could fit the muffin pan in the oven. If you take the tray out you can use larger pot and pans. You just have to place a trivet or something similar on the floor of the oven to allow for air flow under the pot. With a covered pot you could still tilt the oven, maybe not to the last notch of the leg but enough to start cooking earlier. However, with an uncovered muffin pan the batter would have spilled. Next time I'll just use a standard six cup pan that fits in the oven with the leveling tray. It's a lot easier. I have a feeling those cast iron muffin pans are more for decoration than anything else.

  5. Thanks for the info. Talked to the lady across the street - she said to use the cast iron muffin tins, especially the 'fancy' shaped ones, they should be preheated so the muffins start to cook immediately. I do remember my mother doing that with her 'ear of corn' muffin pan when making corn sticks. Without taking the batter out to the oven, I don't see how that could be done.

  6. I baked some cornbread last week in the solar oven. Preheating the cast iron skillet really helped, I think.

  7. Well, now I'll have to try again with a preheated cast iron pan. Maybe I'll make cupcakes next time.