Friday, June 21, 2013

Solar Cooking: First Experiment

Introduction
A solar oven uses energy from direct sunlight to cook foods. No fuel or electricity is required. It is desirable for people who wish to reduce their energy usage or utility bill. Since it does not use fuel, it is also very environmentally friendly in that it does not create any pollution by the burning of fuel.


Question
Can cookies be baked using the sun instead of an oven?


Hypothesis
Yes.


Prediction
It will take longer than baking in the oven, but the cookies will be successfully baked.


Materials and Methods

Equipment used:
  • 1 small, black speckled roaster with lid
  • 2 mini cake pans
  • cooking utensils and ingredients to prepare recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies for 2 

Recipe modifications:
  • A gluten-free all-purpose flour mix from a bakery in Pittsburgh called Gluuteny was used.
  • Brown sugar was not available; instead, more regular sugar was used.
  • Milk was not available and water was used instead.
  • Oil was replaced with coconut butter (not to be confused with coconut oil), and water required was increased by 2 teaspoons.

Method:
  1. Prepare cookie recipe using modifications described above.
  2. Divide the cookie dough in half and place each half in a mini cake pan.
  3. Place the mini cake pans in the roaster and place the lid on top.
  4. Place the roaster outside in direct sunlight.


Observations

TimeOutside TempObservation
12:00 pm78°FCookies are placed into roaster outside.
12:20 pm78°FCookies are still gooey.
12:40 pm79°FCookies seem a little firmer, but still gooey.
1:30 pm80°FCookies may be a bit more firm.
2:00 pm81°FNo apparent change since last observation. Still too gooey to be a cookie.
3:45 pm82°FNo apparent change since last observation. Experiment concluded.


Analysis


It was determined that while some baking did occur in the cookies, this experiment was unsuccessful. The cookies were not firm enough to be picked up by hand, but were easily eaten with a fork. The cookies were also very oily which may have hindered the baking process. The oiliness may be due to the recipe.

Suggested changes to be done in further trials:

  • Cover the roaster with plastic wrap instead of the solid lid.
  • Use cashew butter to replace the oil in the recipe.
  • Obtain an oven thermometer to measure the temperature inside the solar oven.
  • Use a different object as the solar oven, such as a cardboard box painted completely black.
  • Construct reflectors to direct more sunlight to the solar oven.
  • Use solar oven earlier in the day, such as 10:00 am.

Conclusion

While this experiment was unsuccessful, baking cookies using sunlight may still be possible. Based on the observation and results of this experiment, several improvements have been suggested. Further study is highly encouraged.

Solar Cooking: Second Experiment