Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sun Kissed Bread

Last week I told you about our solar ovens. We are just as excited as can be about using our sun ovens because now we've learned how to make bread in them. 

Can you imagine? Eating bread that cost you only what you had to spend on ingredients? It's like magic!

Our friend Gail was part of the team of volunteers that came out in July. Her special project with us was to teach us how to bake bread using whole wheat. To accomplish this, she brought with her a home mill and a Bosch mixer.

We bought a 50 lb sack of whole wheat and within minutes the mill had produced fluffy flour with every last bit of the grain included. No sifting out the bran, no chunky bits. It was bread-ready in what seemed like mere moments.

During the month that Gail was here she baked scores of loaves of bread--all different types--and they were so delicious. After she left, we had trouble with the transporter who brings our gas bottles from Lusaka so we quit baking to conserve energy. Now with solar ovens at our disposal we were raring to go!

Trouble was, we had forgotten exactly how Gail had done the process. I've baked bread before but my process involved a lot of kneading and adding flour. The beauty of the Bosch mixer is you can work with a much softer dough for better results.

Tom and I got started one morning using the cookbook Gail left behind. I handed him ingredients and he dumped them in. At the end we had a very soft gloopy dough. I admit to crying a bit at this point. Not knowing what else to do, we put them in the baking pans, left them to rise and then when the dough had doubled in size we put them in the sun ovens.

After an hour, the bread had risen even more and looked good. We used a matchstick to create a gap between the glass and rubber seal to let out some of the moisture (which slows down the heat by stopping some of the reflectivity), but it looks like we may need a bigger matchstick.

For some reason the bread didn't come out perfectly. We had 2 loaves in each of two of the ovens and 1 in another. The single loaf came out alright. The others had height and tasted OK, but the tops had sunk in.

We were a little disappointed. We even left two of the loaves in for over 4 hours trying to get them to turn out better. They were definitely more cooked but still didn't have that lovely domed top.

The bread tasted so good we were determined to give it a try the next day. This time, after we added all the ingredients, we let the mixer keep going for 5 more minutes. We then left the bread in the bowl to rise for 30 minutes, patted it into five loaves, set them in bread pans and let them rise a second time for 30 minutes. The bread felt much better as I worked with it and when it had risen the second time, the tops were gloriously high.
We also angled our ovens a bit better to catch more rays and only placed one loaf in each oven at a time. After only 2 hours the bread had baked perfectly!
We're kinda bad scientists because we changed so many variables at once so we don't know what didn't work, but we sure know what did work. Take a look at the fruit of our labors! And, remember, this is from solar energy! Free energy! Can't beat that!

Exactly One Year Ago: Fab Friday Foto--Mofwe Lagoon sunset


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