Solar baking: Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies

You know the old saying, “It’s so hot out you could fry an egg on the sidewalk”?  Well, even when it’s not that hot out… I learned that it’s still possible to cook on the sidewalk.  (Or on the lawn!)  Last summer, a random post about solar ovens on a permaculture site led to a months-long obsession with solar cooking.  I read a few books (including this one and this one), I built a solar oven (using cardboard boxes, a whole lot of aluminum foil, and a glass window), and I also requested and received a fantastic portable solar oven as a birthday present.

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You might ask:  WHY?  Or, as my son’s father once asked, “Why don’t you like anything normal?”

Ha!

(It’s a fair question.  He asked it while I was grinning and happily plucking worms out of a pile of worm compost, savoring the fruits of my vermiculture project.)

Anyway… back to the Why.  I love solar cooking because it’s fun to make something delicious using only the sun’s rays and a bit of creativity.  I love baking, and I love summer, but I don’t love reaching into a hot oven on a hot summer day, nor do I like how the stove heats up my house.  (At present, I live in a tiny home – around 400 square feet – so the oven’s effect is a bit like that of a furnace going full-blast.)  Even when I was living in a normal-size home, I still loved the feeling of cooking something great without using a single kilowatt of energy.  (More later on my obsession with my twig-fired stove…)

But, even if your interests do not extend to “weird” solar cooking techniques, rest assured:  it’s entirely possible to make these cookies using your regular oven, and they’ll taste just as good.

With no further ado:

Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies (gluten free)

1/4 cup (56 grams*) butter, softened
1/4 cup (80 grams) maple syrup
1 3/4 cups (168 grams) almond flour
1/4 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

I like to put the butter in the bowl, cover the bowl, and set it outside in the sunshine to soften the butter.  When it’s soft, add the maple syrup, almond flour, sea salt, baking soda, and vanilla, and stir well.  Mix in the chocolate chips.  Taste test, because… well, just trust me.  You’ll want to taste test.

You can refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes or up to two weeks, or you can bake them right away.  When you are ready to bake, get your solar oven out and pointed to the sun, or set your indoor oven to 350 degrees.  Line your baking sheet with parchment paper, and form cookies using your hands.  I use about a tablespoon of dough per cookie, flattening the dough into little discs, leaving two inches of space between each cookie.  (The cookies will flatten some during baking, but not much – so if you start out with spherical pieces of cookie dough, you’ll end up with mostly spherical cookies.)

In the solar oven, bake for an hour or two, checking after the first hour.  (To check, eat a cookie.  Use oven mitts to handle them… just because the solar oven looks like a toy doesn’t mean it can’t burn you!)

In a regular oven, bake for 6-10 minutes, just until the bottom is slightly golden.  The tops should not brown… if they do, you’ve baked them a bit too long.  Cool for five minutes on the cookie sheet, and store any leftovers in a mason jar in the fridge for up to a week.

When I bake these with my toddler, we prepare the dough and cookies and put them in the solar oven right before he goes down for a nap.  Then when he wakes, we retrieve them and have a fun snack.

* I offer most larger measurements in metric because I love my kitchen scale – it makes it so much easier to measure everything into a single bowl and not dirty a bunch of measuring cups and spoons.  Fewer dishes = happier baker.

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