Faculty Members Bake Bread in Solar Oven

Burch and Stevens inspect the baking bread.Whoever said you can’t cook outdoors in below-freezing weather using only the heat of the sun? Faculty members from two different departments at Alfred State College recently joined their respective expertise to bake bread in a solar oven! On a sunny but frigid day, Jeffrey Stevens, associate professor, Electrician and Computer Technician Department, and Debra Burch, associate professor, Culinary Arts Department, teamed up to bake a loaf of bread without using electricity. Stevens, who teaches alternative energy courses at the college, constructed a solar oven from a kit to bake the bread. Although it’s not a fast process (it took about an hour for the oven chamber to reach required temperature for baking), the loaf managed to attain the proper 200-degree (F) internal temperature within about 90 minutes and boasted a nice brown crust to boot. Economical and safe, solar cookers use reflective surfaces that concentrate heat radiation in the central chamber, resulting in temperatures of 400 degrees or more. In fact, a solar oven uses the sun to fry, bake, or broil any food that could be prepared using a conventional oven. Solar cookers may be utilized in lieu of wood ovens which can often pollute the homes in which they are installed. In fact, scientists estimate that smoke from indoor wood cooking fires will cause more than 10 million premature deaths by 2030.

Conversely, an outdoor wood-fired oven can lessen the impact on human life; in the background of this photo stands an outdoor wood-fired oven which the Alfred State masonry curriculum built for use by students in Burch’s classes. Many of the programs at the School of Applied Technology are investigating and training students in alternative energy methods, each unique to the skill sets.