Your Dashboard Can Get Hot Enough to Bake Banana Bread

Bake at 350ºF for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Or, just throw it on your dashboard for the afternoon.
Two loaves of banana bread, before and after sitting on a hot car dashboard
Saguaro National Park on Facebook

Welcome to Summer. Or as those of us who have to live like this for the rest of our lives call it, Hell. But like they say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And by lemonade, I mean banana bread, which you can apparently bake right on your car’s dashboard if you live in the right place.

Such was demonstrated by park rangers at Saguaro National Park on Facebook. Located in southern Arizona, Saguaro National Park is named for the enormous saguaro cactus, which can reach almost 40 feet high. As you’d imagine, the place gets real hot, with highs averaging over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in June and July, and exceeding 90ºF for five months of the year. Obviously, it get hotter still inside a car—hot enough, apparently, to do some baking.

To show how quickly a car can become a literal oven, park rangers filled two loaf pans with banana bread batter topped with chocolate chips. (The best way to make banana bread.) They then left the loaves on a car’s dashboard on a day that measured 97ºF at 11:00 am, and left it until at least 2:00 pm. Within a hour, the dashboard reached 200ºF, topping out at 211ºF after three hours. That’s one degree shy of the boiling point of water; you could definitely cook an egg out there in a jiffy.

As for the banana bread, the rangers said it was a little “squishy” inside after all that time, which makes sense. Recommended baking temperatures typically exceed 350ºF, as that’s the temperature where the Maillard reaction—which causes browning and complex flavor development—happens. You can still cook below that temperature, or even below water’s boiling point (that’s sous vide for you), but it won’t be as good. For best effect, you’d probably need to leave the banana bread there all afternoon. Or you could heed the rangers’ advice, and make cookies instead. They’re thinner, so they’ll cook faster and more evenly.

Still, as sweet of a treat as sun-baked cookies would be to walk out to, let this also serve as an example of what can happen to things you leave in your car during the summer. If you don’t want it slow-cooked like a crock pot, then take it indoors with you—there’s no relying on “dog mode” any more.

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