Earlier this week I borrowed a solar oven from school to begin trying it out before I use it to teach my students in the fall. I have to say that so far I am in love with solar cooking. I've made brown rice, baked potatoes, a luscious gingerbread and right now there is a millet-rice dish doing its best under less than-ideal conditions. The afternoon clouds are rolling in. (Please say they'll bring us rain!)
I also tried an 18-hour sourdough from this nifty site, but after the dough was done fermenting, it was too overcast to use the sun oven. I baked it up in the regular oven and it was one of the best loaves I've made in a long time. I think I'll make some more dough tomorrow to try again.
The best thing about using the solar oven is that it keeps the house cooler than it would otherwise. With temperatures in the upper 90s, I'm glad for any reason to keep the interior heat to a minimum. The second best thing, well, maybe it is a tie for first, is that the solar oven doesn't use any nasty fossil fuels!
I also like that it forces me to think ahead: a pot of brown rice takes two hours (three if I preheat the water in the solar cooker) and the gingerbread took an hour and a half. I get to really think about what we're going to eat and how much time we need. It slows life down a notch. Maybe once school is back in session, this might pose a challenge, but I'd like to see how long we can maintain using the sun oven.
I'm going to need to work on my timing. At this time of year, rain clouds generally roll in around dinnertime. With the current drought and only one good rain to date, I've forgotten about these regularly scheduled monsoon clouds. When I put out the millet/rice about an hour ago, the clouds were puffy and plenty of blue sky could be found. Now it's very gray and rain just may be in the forecast. I wonder how much longer beyond the 2 hour suggested cooking time it'll have to stay in the cooker.
Add a fourth thing I like about the sun oven--the lack of predictability! I'm not ready for sun-cooked dinner parties yet.