Last week, I drew up some guidelines to follow if you wanted to try baking cookies in your car. This past weekend, since the temperatures were well over 100F out here, I decided to give the technique a try myself. I parked my car in full sunlight in the middle of the day, sliced up some cookie dough and started to bake.
I previously noted that most of the reporters and writers who tried this technique used refrigerated, slice-and-bake cookie dough. My guess would be that they chose to use that type of pre-fab dough because they might not be regular bakers and were looking for something that would be quick and easy, since the baking process using a car is not exactly fast. I went with a homemade dough, but decided that I, too, would use a slice-and-bake type of cookie (the recipe is at the bottom of this article). This meant that my dough could be prepared well in advance and that I could control the thickness of each cookie with precise slicing. Drop cookies work, too, but this seems to be the best way to control spread and ensure even cooking.
I sliced my dough into 1/4-inch thick slices and placed them on a parchment lined baking sheet. I used potholders to support the baking sheet (and to prevent any damage to my dashboard from the hot metal) and placed both the cookies and an oven thermometer in my car. 30 minutes later, the cookies were beginning to spread slightly.
The temperature inside my car reached over 180F during baking. Since my car is significantly larger than my oven, I didn’t want to open the car doors at any point during the baking. I recommend that you remove anything you think you’ll need before you begin. Here are the cookies after about 1 hour:
It took about 2 1/2 hours for the cookies to bake completely. I ended up opening the car door shortly before the end of the baking period to check for doneness. This check has to be done manually, as there are no color indicators (such as brownness) to judge by because the sugar in the car cookies does not caramelize and brown like that of oven-baked cookies. So, I gently pressed the edges of the cookies to feel that they were firm and even more gently touched the center of one of the cookies to see that it held together and was not gooey (the center of the cookie should not be entirely firm, unless you are shooting for a crispy cookie). Finally, I slid one of the cookies around on the parchment paper – a good test for this type of baking because a baked cookie will release easily from the paper, while an unbaked cookie will stick in place. If your cookies are not done, add more baking time in 15 or 30 minute increments, as opposed to the 30 second or 1 minute increments you might add to an oven-baked cookie.
The finished cookies were very light in color, but smelled and tasted delicious. They were slightly crisp at the edges and chewy in the center. I think that they were best hot out of the car, and believe that my tasters did, too, since the whole batch was gone in under 5 minutes. My only regret is that I didn’t bake more at one time, since it’s a time-consuming process and not something I’m up for every day.
Car-Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, soft
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Beat in egg, followed by flour mixture and chocolate chips.
Place dough on a large sheet of wax paper and roll into a log approximately 11-inches long by 2.5-inches wide. Freeze for 2-3 hours, or overnight.
When ready to bake, park your car in the sun on a 100F+ day. Slice cookies into 1/4-inch thick slices and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Place baking sheet on car dashboard (with protective towel underneath) and bake for 2 1/2-3 hours, until done.
If you have a big dashboard (or a friend with another car), you can do two batches at once, otherwise you can save half of the dough for another day.
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.