Dashboard Cookies

{When the summer days get crazy hot, why not harness
the sun’s power and make cookies…in your car!
+ Read on for TIPS on dashboard-baking perfection!}

Dashboard cookies - baking cookies in a car www.crumbsandtales.com + tips

It’s inevitable. No sooner does the mercury start rising, do reporters and other curious folk venture outdoors to demonstrate that it’s hotter than a hen in a wool basket by frying eggs on side walks, crisping up bacon on metal park benches and even baking up pizza pies on asphalt. (Yes, that actually happened.)

And of course there are legions of people with raging sweet tooths who are baking up cookies on the dashboard of their cars…yes, their cars. I reckon someone came up with this rockin’ concept of harnessing the sun’s power, in a completely serendipitous way; just stumbled upon it one day when they weren’t paying attention and left their, erm, baking tray in the car while they were getting something from the trunk…?

Whomever is credited with this concept, yesterday, a socially conscious and awesome, Toronto Detective named Jeff Bangild of the Toronto Police Service, decided — in a plight to generate much needed awareness about the dangers of leaving pets or *gasp* kids in cars during the summer time (and, I imagine, to satisfy a yen for delicious baked cookies — donuts, move aside) — to bake up cookies in his car while he went about his day. Taking inspiration from Toronto’s finest, I’ve decided that I’d follow suit and bake up a batch today and hopefully, in turn, cajole all of you lovely readers into baking up a batch too! I imagine this is how MacGyver baked cookies and, well, I’m all for MacGyver-izing any food.

And so, I set off again today on another culinary misadventure adventure. Try it at home; this will completely give you rock-star status with your kids.

Make these. Now. If for no other reason than to leave your car smelling like the best bakery there ever was (actually THIS is the best bakery there ever was – www.facebook.com/frostcupcake – but whatever;) You’ll never need another air freshener for your car again!

You can even bring a hunk of cookie dough in a portable refrigerator or cooler on a camping or cottaging trip and bake these up in your car whilst you swim or hike or do whatever it is you like to do in warm weather. You’ll get freshly baked cookies and you won’t have to slave over a hot stove indoors while the family is enjoying the great outdoors.

When you’re serving this up to neighbours (and they WILL come ’round to hover by your car and wait for the cookies) you’re required by social law and civil courtesy 😉 to follow this moral imperative and remind them to never leave their pet or child in the car…even on a pleasantly warm day…even for a minute. And, remember, if you see an animal or a child in a car on a hot day, always call the police. That caveat aside, you’re free to enjoy these cookies any way you choose.

Scroll down for my tested recipe and TIPS for making these Dashboard Cookies aaaamazing! Seriously, let’s make some productive use out of this stifling hot weather already. 

dashboard cookie - baking tips

Wouldn’t these dainty little cookies look awesome juxtaposed in front of a massive textured/mesh masculine car grill? Oh well, I had to do with what I had. These were just begging to be staged in front of a car grill with car keys in the background. They are ‘car cookies’ after all! 😉

baking cookies in a car - dashboard baking

How cute do these look all stacked and wrapped up like a little gift. Just because they’re ‘car cookies’ doesn’t exclude them from being adorable! 

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So how did I know it was dashboard cookie-making weather? Because the thermometer told me so! My car reading was 95°F and my standard outdoor thermometer reading was around 30°C. Phew. It was a scorcher.

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So, my make shift oven for the day was none other than my car. How resourceful is that? It’s such a ‘green’ concept this ‘solar-baking’ so you can feel a teeny tiny bit better about spewing harmful emissions from your car into the environment as you drive around all day long. (Don’t judge me, you drive a car too.)

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So this recipe for the cookies was tailored by me for you to use for ‘dashboard baking’. (Saying that makes me laugh every time!) Most people use store-bought dough but that’s not how I roll 😉 It takes a bit more effort, for sure, but a made-from-scratch recipe is better suited to this. (Although I’m sure there are die-hard pre-made-cookie-dough fans out there that will argue the contrary.)  I used more brown sugar than white in this recipe to give the cookies that toffee flavour we crave in chocolate chip cookies. The heat in the car won’t rise enough to caramelize the sugar in the cookies and give them that beautiful golden tone but at least the molasses in the brown sugar will attempt to mimic that effect.

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Whip the butter and sugars until pale and light before adding the eggs and continuing with the mixing process.

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You can add any flavour, type or quantity of chip or nut that you’d like. The flavour add-in possibilities in this recipe are your veritable playground so go nuts.

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I first scooped these out with a little spring-loaded cookie scoop to ensure they were all uniform size then rolled them into perfect little rounds.

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After forming the balls, press them down gently to ensure they are uniform thickness. Pressing them down helps along the baking process and will ensure that the edges don’t bake too quickly and crisp up too much while the centre is still raw.

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After the dough is rolled, sprinkle a few grains of fleur de sel (sea salt) on the tops (only if that’s your thing) to balance the sweetness of the cookies with. Who said dashboard cookies can’t have panache? 😉

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The tea towel will protect your dashboard as the tray will get very hot during ‘baking’! You can use a soft trivet or any other piece of fabric so long as it’s thick enough to protect the dashboard. I’ve seen people put the tray directly on their dashboard. Don’t do that. Just don’t.  

baking cookies in a car - on the dashboard - solar oven

It was so hot outside that while I was preparing the tea towel to place on the dashboard, I left the cookie tray on the hood of the car and the cookies already started to glisten and ‘sweat’…within seconds!

baking dashboard cookiesThe baking process started almost immediately as the cookies started to slowly spread out. 

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I monitored the time precisely (for your benefit) so I would have an idea of how long these took to bake. It’s difficult to predict how long it will take in different cars as some interiors are lighter and don’t attract heat as much as dark interiors for example. Also, some cars are more ‘air-tight’ compared to others so they are better at retaining heat. Finally, the location of your car and where the sun is shining down from is also relevant. All these factors make it difficult to predict the exact time so just keep an eye on them. 

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 It wasn’t long before the temperature in the car began escalating quickly.

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At the 25-minute mark I noticed that the tops were beginning to crack — a sure sign that the baking process had begun!

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After just over an hour, I couldn’t fight the urge to go into the car and check out the cookies. You can see here that they slid off the parchment easily and were set on the outside but completely gummy on the inside and undercooked. After wiping the sweat from my brow, I stepped out of the car (closing the door quickly) and let the sun continue its work.

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It’s almost unfathomable that cars can heat up so quickly and to such insanely high temperatures! The highest temp I registered was 70°C (158°F)! Madness. I didn’t hit the 160°F mark as I’d hoped to do to ensure the eggs were cooked but they seemed baked through so I took my chances. 

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The cookies were taken out at 3:11 p.m. (recall that they went in at 12:18 p.m.) Nearly three hours later, the cookies were ready. They would have been ready sooner had it not been for those big imposing, ominous rain clouds which covered up all that lovely sun for about half an hour in between. The last reading I got was actually lower than the one before as the sun had moved on (then returned…then moved on again) and the interior of the car had cooled down a bit.

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The cookies were finally done and, oh my word…my car was gloriously infused with the scent of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. I may never buy an air fresherner again.

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The tops of these were beautifully marred with little surface cracks and although they didn’t brown at all (there was a little colour on the bottom), they were wildly chewy and amazingly delicious and had a blondie-type texture. 

DSC_0804You can see here that the inside of the cookie was perfectly baked…and those chocolately chips were melty and warm. Perfection.

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DSC_0758Wouldn’t this be a lovely surprise to leave in someone’s car? 😉 Actually don’t do that. They may sit on it and that would just be messy.

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So are you ready to try it yourself? Here are some TIPS to follow:

  1. I don’t recommend store-bought pre-made dough because, well, I NEVER recommend it under any circumstances but normally what you do in the privacy of your kitchen is your own business but for this, seriously, it won’t work as well. Pre-made doughs are filled with hydrogenated oils which can separate when baked at low temperatures so you might get cookies with uber greasy bottoms. (Keep in mind that your dough can be made ahead of time and frozen for weeks. When the weather is particularly hot, all you have to do is grab the dough from the freezer, let it defrost a bit and bake them up!)  If you’re still against making them yourself, just order the cookie dough from www.facebook.com/frostcupcake – the dough will come beautifully wrapped along with instructions for you!
  2. Make sure to put something, such as a tea towel or a soft trivet, on the dashboard to rest the tray on. I will not be responsible for those of you who are too giddy and beside yourself with excitement about making cookies that you neglect to protect your dashboard. The baking tray will get HOT. If your dashboard has a deep slope like mine does, roll up a towel and wedge it under the side that’s sloping to prop it up and keep the tray level.
  3. Use small pieces of dough (about 1.25 inches in diameter) to ensure they bake up quickly and the centres are cooked through.
  4. Line the baking tray with parchment paper or a silicone mat. You don’t want to grease the pan or the cookies will start to melt out too quickly and spread during the low and slow baking process. On the other hand, if crispy pancake-like cookies are your thing, grease the pan to your heart’s content.
  5. Start early in the day. Put these cookies in your car no later than Noon. Depending on the temperature, the location of the sun relative to your car, and about a half dozen other factors, your cookies may need a full three hours to bake and you don’t want to put them in late afternoon and lose the sun before the cookies are done. That would be upsetting. Very upsetting.
  6. Make sure that the temperature outside is above 35°C (95°F) to ensure that the sun is hot enough to do its work. Anything much lower than that, you’re going to end up with soft balls of dough.  Ensure the ambient temperature of the car reaches 70°C (160°F) at some point during baking to ensure any bacteria that may be in the eggs is killed off. No one wants salmonella cookies.
  7. Once you put the cookies in the car, leave them alone. No seriously, back off and walk away. Hide the car keys from your kids. You essentially want to hotbox the car and keep that hot air captured in the car to coax the cookies along their way. (I’m sure you don’t bake your cookies at home with the oven door opening every 5 minutes; this is no different.)
  8. Use a thermometer. There’s no other way to gauge the inside temperature of the car to ensure it is hot enough. The ‘sweat’ check (i.e. sitting in the car and seeing how long it takes you to start sweating profusely) is not scientific by any means. You’ll need to know the inside temperature. Why, you ask? Refer to Tip #6.
  9. Check for done-ness at the 1 1/2 hour mark. Depending on your car, the colour of your interior (seats, etc.) your cookies may be done as early as 1 1/2 hours. Your cookies will not be browned of course, since there is no high heat in which to caramelize those lovely sugars contained in your dough to give you that golden colour. So, to check if they are done, lightly touch the edges of the cookies and the centres. The edges should be firm and centres should appear set. If you’re not sure, break one of those bad boys open and have a look. If they’re not done, return them to the car and monitor them every 20 minutes or so after that.
  10. Remove the tray from the pan with a pot holder or oven mitt! The tray will be super hot!
  11. Share these with the neighbours and makes some friends. Or eat them locked in your bedroom so no one else can get at them…whatever you prefer. Just enjoy them. 

Dashboard Cookies {Cookies you Make in your Car!}

3/4 cup     unsalted butter
3/4 cup     packed brown sugar
1/2 cup     granulated sugar

2 teaspoons     vanilla extract
1     large egg
1     egg yolk
2 cups     all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon     baking soda
1/4 teaspoon     baking powder
1/2 teaspoon     salt
1/8 teaspoon     ground nutmeg
1/2 cup     white chocolate chips

1/2 cup     semi-sweet or bitter-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup     walnuts (or any other nut – or just keep them nut-free)
Fleur de Sel (sea salt) to sprinkle on top of the cookies (optional)

Melt the butter in the microwave. Remove the butter from the microwave and allow the butter to come to room temperature. The butter will set up again and go from a semi-translucent liquid to opaque and it will thicken up as well.  You can hurry this cooling process along by refrigerating the butter until it cools down. (For dense, chewy cookies, allow the melted butter to cool for only a minute or two before adding the liquid butter into the mixture which is discussed in the next step).

In a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the cooled butter, brown sugar and sugar on high speed for 1-2 minutes until pale and fluffy to allow air to incorporate into the mixture. (This aeration process will result in cake-like cookies.)

Add in the vanilla extract, egg, egg yolk and beat until smooth. In a small bowl, sift the flour with the baking soda and baking powder using a sieve or sifter. Stir in the salt and nutmeg.  Add the dry ingredients to the mixer and mix on low for about 30 seconds until everything is incorporated; do not over mix.  Remove the bowl from the mixer. Chop the walnuts into smaller pieces and add them into the batter along with the chocolate chips. Use a spoon or spatula to mix the chips and nuts in the mixture (not the mixer).

Line a baking tray (which is sized right to fit on your dashboard) with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Using a small cookie scoop or a small spoon, form equal size rounds of dough that are no bigger than 1.25 inches in diameter. Make sure to leave enough space between each cookie as they will spread out a bit as they bake. 

Place the cookies on the dashboard which has a soft trivet or tea towel laid on it to protect the dashboard from the heat of the tray. Place a thermometer in the car with the cookies and face it towards a window so that you can monitor the temperature during baking without opening the door. Shut and lock the car door. Allow the cookies to bake for an hour under the sun before you check up on them. If the centres no longer look gooey, open the car door and sit in the car. Shut the door quickly so the heat doesn’t escape from the car and check for done-ness. The edges should be firm and the centres should no longer be gooey. Break a cookie in half if you must to check to see if it’s done. The thermometer should read at least 70°C (160°F) at some point during baking to ensure any bacteria that may be in the eggs is killed off. Remove the tray from the dashboard with an oven mitt as the tray will be very hot.

[Note: if you choose to make these in a conventional oven instead, bake in a 325°F preheated oven for 8-10 minutes for small cookies or 13-15 for larger cookies, until they are light golden brown on the edges and set in the centre.]

Now share this post by Pinning it or Tweeting it or Liking it so that your friends can experience this awesome form of solar-baking! 😉 And let me know what you think about the cookies…Do they taste the same as conventionally baked cookies? Are they over-rated? Is 2 hours too long to wait for delicious, warm chocolate chip cookies? Or are they completely and utterly worth the taste/the time/and the looks on your kids faces?

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7 thoughts on “Dashboard Cookies

  1. It’s definitely as insane as it is inventive! 😉 But it’s loads of fun…especially for kids!

  2. What fun! It’s going to hit 110F at my parents’ house this weekend while we’re visiting…maybe it’s time to make some cookies!

  3. Sarah, I hope you had a chance to take advantage of the hot weather and make the cookies this weekend!!

  4. The fact that you successfully baked cookies on your sunshine-exposed car dashboard just boggles my mind! I mean, they always say when it’s hot you can fry an egg on the sidewalk, but this takes the ‘sunshine cooking’ to an entirely different level!
    Great post!

  5. GourmetGetaways – it’s the perfect activity for camping! Low-maintenance baking! 😉

    Hilary – I was as amazed as you are! And they really did come out beautifully! I’ll have to see what other foods I can cook/bake up on the dashboard. Besides being super fun, it is practical for when you’re on the road/cottaging/camping!

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