Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Can You Use a Mini-Van to Bake Cookies?

Like much of the nation, it has been darn hot around here the past few days. Day after day of 100 degree+ temperatures must have caused me to crack, because this afternoon I got the notion to try and bake cookies in my van. You've probably seen people on the news frying eggs on the sidewalk during heat waves. An egg just wasn't going to cut it; I wanted chocolate chip cookies.

A quick Google search led me to the Baking Bites blog where someone had already tried baking chocolate chip cookies in her car.  I "preheated" my van while I made the dough. I pulled my van out of the garage and pointed it towards the west-southwest, where it would get the maximum amount of afternoon sun. I used the Baking Bites recipe as a starting off point, adding in a few drops of double-strength vanilla extract and using regular size chocolate chips instead of the mini-chips specified.

Dished out and ready to bake

The Baking Bites recipe uses a slice and bake method to form the cookies. I chose to forgo this, relying instead on a cookie scoop like this to dish out equal amounts of dough. I gently flattened each cookie with my hand, hoping that would help the cookies bake evenly. The author of Baking Bites blog also lined her cookie sheet with parchment paper. I skipped this and simply sprayed the pan with cooking spray. The reason? I've watched enough videos about solar ovens to know that dark-colored cookware works best and white parchment would reflect the sun's energy. My old aluminum cookie sheets would have to do.

I placed a double layer of towels on the dashboard, placed my cookie sheet on top, shut the door, and crossed my fingers. The temperature outside was 100 degrees according to the National Weather Service, a brutal 108 degrees according to the thermometer on my deck and the perspiration on my body.

The baking begins!

Unfortunately, I didn't think to place a thermometer inside the van, so I'm not sure how hot it eventually got in there. I checked the cookies (from the outside) every 30 minutes. I didn't want to let the heat escape so I kept the door shut.

At thirty minutes - the cookies have spread out and look moist

One hour has elapsed - not much has changed, but they have spread out a little more

I'll spare you the photo at an hour and a half. It pretty much looked the same as at one hour. At this point I was wondering if this would really work.

When I went outside at two hours, I went ahead and opened the door and touched a cookie. To my utter shock, they were done!

Pallid, but cooked!

How do cookies baked in a mini-van compare to those baked in an oven?

When you cook in a mini-van (or any solar oven, for that matter) things don't brown quite like they do in a standard oven. The cookies on the left were baked in my oven; the ones on the right came out of the van. As for the taste test, I much preferred the ones from the oven, though I wouldn't turn my nose up at the mini-van ones. The Thinker actually preferred them.

 So there you go. You CAN bake in a mini-van.


  1. Very interesting, thanks for sharing.

  2. Just a Note:
    The plastic in automobiles give off a toxic gas. It's best to open your windows and doors and let the car air out when it has been closed up during hot weather.

  3. Dionne - I was curious after I read your comment so I did a quick Google search. http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/automobiles/a/benzene_in_car.htm

    Sounds like could possibly be a hazard, but maybe not. I don't plan on using my van as a solar oven as a habit, but that's probably for the best regardless.