The WildeBeat

The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.


The WildeBeat edition 117: Baking in the Sun

This is a supplementary transcript of our audio program. CLICK HERE to listen to the original program, and see the associated show notes.

Fresh, hot, baked goods on the trail? Listen to us make them without fuel or fire. This week on The WildeBeat; Baking in the Sun.

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News from the Wildebeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.

This is program number one seventeen.

I'm Steve Sergeant.

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STEVE: Some backcountry campers are happy with the most spartan of foods. They'll settle for a quick pot of noodles and a pocket full of energy bars. Some extremists will even skip that pot of noodles. But for most of us, a backcountry trip is not a competitive challenge, not a gruelling death march, it's just a nice time to get away. On some more relaxed trips, food can be one of the main sources of entertainment. So why not cook up something fun?

STEVE: I'm talking again with Linda Frederick Yaffe. She's the author of Backpack Gourmet, and several other books on backcountry cooking, including High Trail Cookery, and Solar Cooking for Home and Camp. Linda, welcome to the WildeBeat.

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: Thank you so much.

STEVE: So today, you're going to show us how we can bake something without an oven. Well, at least without fire.

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: That's right. One of the things we all sorely miss when we're camping, is having fresh baked goods such as bread or cake. It's so wonderful to have something fresh. You know with a solar cooker, you can, at your base camp... you can actually bake wonderful fresh foods that don't take very long.

STEVE: OK. So what do you have for us today?

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: Today we have some gingerbread. And this is a very easy cake to make in a solar oven. Solar ovens do very well with black pots and with dark foods inside the pots they do especially well. Gingerbread, made with dark molasses, cooks very, very fast.

STEVE: What kind of equipment are we going to need to bake this cake?

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: We're going to use a box cooker to make this cake... and it's made from materials that most people have in their homes right now... Two recycled cardboard boxes, a roll of ordinary weight aluminum foil, the kind that you use in your kitchen. I have, for the window, instead of using glass, I've lightened it up by using a nylon oven bag for a window... Reynolds makes oven bags, they've been making them for years. They go up to four hundred degrees in your oven. They're the sort of bag you'd put a turkey inside.

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: The sun comes through the window, it is enhanced by the refector over the window. The whole thing is covered, on the reflector and on the inside, with ordinary aluminum foil. The two boxes that make up this cooker are regular cardboard boxes that I've cut down to size so that they'll fit, one inside the other. In between the boxes we have insulation. You can use crumpled newspaper, you can use fabric scraps. Wool is very good, cotton. You can use shredded junk mail. Just fill up the insides with good insulation. Cover the inside of the box and the reflector by gluing with white glue, or homemade flour and water paste, gluing aluminum foil to the cardboard, so that the whole thing is very shiny inside... The sun shines through the window, bounces off of the aluminum foil, and then it's held by this black pot... This pot attracts the heat that is bounced off of the aluminum foil, and it's saturating this little pot to bake our gingerbread.

STEVE: All right... What are going to need to make this? Let's mix this up.

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: Gingerbread is an easy cake to make inside your solar cooker because being dark it cooks very quickly. So like using black pots, you want to use dark foods inside a solar cooker if want a fast result. For this one, I just need two little bowls. And one I'm taking some molasses and some honey, and I'm pouring in some hot water, and so I'm going to set that aside. Now, I like to just do a very quick easy cake by putting all of the dry ingredients together in one bowl, no sifting, no messing around. I'm adding egg and some brown sugar. This is gingerbread, so we need some seasoning in here. I'm going to use some ginger, and some ground cinnamon. This uses whole wheat flour, which makes it darker yet... This needs to be stirred. And now I'm oiling the pan. I'm going to pour this, it's a very liquid batter, I'll pour this into the pan. And then we're going to cover it... I'm using a nice thin, wide, dark pan with a cover. Most foods that go into the solar cookers are covered. This makes them cook faster. The pot itself is the oven... And that will go into the solar cooker for about an hour and a half.

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LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: I'm taking off the lid right now, ...The temperature is hovering around two hundred. I have a thermometer sitting inside this, because I like to make sure that I have it up to a nice hot temperature before I put my cake in.

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: The cake that I have in here today is in a lovely little pot. These are available from Solar Cookers International. A wonderful nonprofit in Sacramento. You can buy these by mail. It's a little round pot, with no handles to get in the way, so you can put several of them in this box. It's low, it's thin metal, and it's black. And black attracts heat. That's why you want to use black pots for solar cooking. This is a cake. It's gingerbread. And it is done. It's done in about an hour and a half, two hours. At about two hundred degrees, and it really smells delicious. Gingerbread is a wonderful cake to make in a solar cooker, because like the back pots, gingerbread is dark. So it attracts heat. It's a wonderful choice for the first thing you bake in your solar cooker, try some gingerbread. You'll be very pleased with the results.

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: Another dish I love to make in this box cooker, is solar baked custard. This box is wonderful for foods that are kind of delicate in your regular oven, because the heat is a little lower in a solar box cooker. Think of it like a big crock pot. It's just a low slow cooking. Solar-baked custard in here is delicious. It's made with eggs, evaporated milk, you can use low fat if you like. Tastes very rich, but it's a very nutritious low-fat treat. Another food that I like to make in this cooker is corn on the cob. I like to tke fresh corn from the farmer's market or my garden, wipe it off, I don't strip it, I put the corn whole in the husk, right inside the box. Set it in the sun for an hour and a half, it's the best corn you've ever eaten. Strip it and eat it. You don't even need to put butter on it, it is so delicious.

STEVE: The box solar cooker looks like something that's a little big to take into the backcountry. I suppose if you were on a horse or something it's, or you're canoeing or something you could do it. Are there other options?

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: There certainly are. If you're going to pack a solar cooker in, you would certainly want to use a folding panel cooker. The folding panel cooker is made from a piece of recyled cardboard. It's four feet, by three feet.

STEVE: So how small does this thing fold down?

LINDA FREDERICK YAFFE: It folds down to three feet, by about one foot, so you can lash it onto your backpack.

STEVE: So if we come back in a future show, can you tell us how to use one of these?


STEVE: Linda Frederick Yaffe is the author of several books on backcountry cooking, including the Backpack Gourmet, High Trail Cookery, and her newest book, Solar cooking for Home and Camp. Linda, thank you for appearing on the WildeBeat.


STEVE: We'd like to share your experiences backcountry baking with our other listeners, and we always want to hear any other comments you might have about our show. You can call our toll free comment line at 866-590-7373. Or send email to comments at wildebeat dot net. You can find the text of the gingerbread cake recipe, links to more information about solar cooking, and a high-quality stereo version of this show, on our web site.

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Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. If we helped you get into the wilderness, could you help us do the same for others? Just click on our support link and become a member. The WildeBeat is produced by Steve Sergeant, with help from Jean Higham, as a nonprofit educational project of Earth Island Institute.

This has been The WildeBeat, program number one seventeen. Thank you for listening.

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Next time -- The Year in Gear.

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