The Week in Soap: 9th April ’17

A day late, but better late than never eh? Anyway, this weekly update will be super-short.   The kids are off school for the Easter break, and I have even less time than usual to get all the things done…

I only managed one night of soaping in the last week – I made double batches of Boho Baby and OMH. I tried using a mica called ‘Arctic White’ instead of Titanium Dioxide for the white portion of the OMH, and I really wish I hadn’t, but hey ho, it’s good to try something different occasionally (shan’t be trying that one again though!):

Boho Baby / OMH

Boho Baby / OMH

Last week I  also managed to hastily put together a post outlining the core range of soaps.  It’s a poor substitute for a website, but at least now when I’m asked what I have it’s all listed in one place and I can just send a link.  It has however highlighted the fact that I need to do some work on product descriptions and on photography (though luckily my husband just bought a DSLR camera so that might happen soon) before I launch the website.

The second bit of news is that I made facial soap – finally! It was on the goals lists for the last two months and while I’ve been working on the recipe for quite a while, I just never got round to actually making it.  I put a lot of research into this one, and while it’s colour and fragrance free,  it’s chock full of some other amazing ingredients. I’ll post separately about it soon.

Now I’m (kind of) back on track goals wise, I should be thinking about April’s goals but you know what?  We’re already 10 days in and I’ve got 14 days of school holidays to get through – I’m cutting myself some slack and not setting goals for April.  I’ll just keep on building inventory (starting to feel a little more comfortable with the numbers on the rack now), wrapping / labelling, fulfilling orders and doing my weekly soapy presentation / monthly market.

Thanks for reading, back soon!

 

The PERFECT Yorkshire Puddings (I promise!)

Yorkshire puds. Those crispy, crunchy yet soft in the middle mopper-uppers of homemade gravy are the perfect accompaniment to a Sunday (or-any-otherday) Roast.  They’re traditionally served with roast beef, but I’d be very unpopular in our house if I dared serve ANY type of roast without Yorkshire puddings.  Luckily I have the perfect, fail-safe recipe to guarantee golden crispy loveliness each and every time:

Yorkshire Puddings

Yorkshire Puddings

When I posted a few weeks ago that I’d made some Yorkshire Puddings, Sarah of Sas-Oki Soaps challenged me to post the recipe so that she could decide for herself whether it truly is foolproof, so here it is! I hope more of you will give it a try too.

To make 12 delicious Yorkshire Puddings you’ll need:

  • 150g plain  (all purpose) flour
  • 300ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 2 medium sized eggs
  • plenty of salt & pepper
  • lard (for cooking)

Pre-heat oven to 230c / fan 210c / gas 8

Whisk the two eggs into the milk, and season the flour well with the salt and pepper.

Seasoned flour and eggs whisked into milk

Seasoned flour and eggs whisked into milk

Slowly beat the eggy milk into the flour until it’s all combined:

Milk & flour combined

Milk & flour combined

then pour it into a jug and let it sit for half an hour. (When I’ve been in a hurry I have made them without letting them sit for very long and not noticed much difference in the result, but I still  let it stand if I can):

Batter in a jug, ready to pour

Batter in a jug, ready to pour

After half an hour or so, put a generous knob of lard into each cavity of a 12 cavity muffin tin:

Muffin tin with lard

Muffin tin with lard

then place the tray into the preheated oven and let it get smoking hot. Really, REALLY hot.  Take the tray out of oven and place it on the hob, over some heat – the aim is to prevent the lard from cooling down before/while you pour the batter.

Pour the batter into each cavity of the tray, filling them about two thirds full.  If you have a little left over top up some of the cavities – it doesn’t matter if some are fuller than others.  While your pouring you should see that the fat is so hot that the batter begins sizzling and bubbling immediately:

Sizzling pudding batter

Sizzling pudding batter

Pop the tray straight into the hot oven, and cook for approx 25 minutes, or until they’re puffed up, brown and crispy. Keep an eye on their progress, they might take a little less time, they might take a little longer, but at this high temperature they could burn quite quickly if you leave them in too long.  Oh, and don’t open the over door before the cooking time is up, or they’ll collapse…

I took some snaps of my last lot every five minutes or so – apologies for the picture quality, the oven door doesn’t make for a great window!

Yorkshire Puds 1

Yorkshire Puds 1

Yorkshire Puds 2

Yorkshire Puds 2

Yorkshire Puds 3

Yorkshire Puds 3

Yorkshire Puds 4

Yorkshire Puds 4

Serve as soon as possible after taking out of the oven:

Yorkshire Puddings

Yorkshire Puddings

There – told you it was easy! There is absolutely NO excuse to buy ready made Yorkshire Puddings ever gain 😀

Teisen Gri – Traditional Welsh Cakes – A Recipe

Teisen Gri (literally translated – Griddle Cakes) are traditional Welsh cakes that we make and enjoy all year, and especially around the 1st March when we celebrate St David’s Day (the patron saint of Wales).  Last week I took a break from soaping and made (another) batch of deliciousness…

Welsh Cakes

Welsh Cakes

They’re similar to a fruit scone, but flatter and cooked on a griddle over direct heat. Traditionally they’re dusted with caster sugar after cooking, but I usually skip that step. They are honestly utterly delicious – perfect to have with a cup of tea, and they’ll keep a good few days in an airtight container. They don’t tend to last that long in our house though! I posted the above picture on the blog a while back, and I’ve been asked a couple of times since for the recipe, so here goes. This recipe makes 20 – 30 Teisen Gri, depending on the size of the cutter you use.

Ingredients:

  • 225g salted butter (lard is a traditional alternative – I always use butter)
  • 450g self raising flour
  • 0.5tsp mixed powdered spice
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 170g mixed dried fruit  (currants are traditionally used)
  • 2 eggs

Method:

  1. Rub together the flour and the butter until they are the consistency of breadcrumbs. I usually do mine in a food processor:
Flour & Butter

Flour & Butter

2. Mix in the mixed spices, sugar and the mixed fruit:

Don’t forget the mixed spices – makes a huge difference to the final flavour

Sugar

Sugar

Mixed Fruit

Mixed Fruit

3. Add the two eggs and mix:

Add the eggs

Add the eggs

Mixed

Mix

4. Bring it all together on a floured surface, adding a little more flour IF it feels too sticky to roll out:

Dough ready to roll

Dough ready to roll

5. Roll out the dough to about 0.75cm.  Many recipes say 1cm thickness, and while personally I find this a little too thick, it’s trial and error to find what suits you. I neglected to take a photo of this stage – sorry!

6. Cut out rounds using a fluted scone cutter, and place on a pre-heated griddle. Don’t grease the griddle – dry is best.  A thick bottomed frying pan would work if you don’t have a griddle:

Cooking on the griddle

Cooking on the griddle

7. After a couple of minutes, when the underside has developed a nice dark colour (some of these below should really have been darker) flip over and cook on the other side:

Flip

Flip

8. Once they’re cooked and nicely browned on both sides, place on a cooling tray and, if desired, dredge with castor sugar.  Enjoy hot or cold, with or without butter.

I’ll be back on topic with my next post, but even soapers have to eat eh? Let me know if you give these a try (and what you think of them!!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commitment

I’m slipping.  After successfully completing Blogtober, I planned on continuing to post at least twice a week, but because I don’t have that challenge mentality it’s just not happening. I need a plan.  I need structure and regularity (and a little more determination :-D).

Commitment

                        Commitment

So here’s the deal. I’m making a commitment, now, to post a minimum of twice a week, most likely on a Sunday and a Wednesday. I plan on doing a weekly roundup on a Sunday evening of everything soapy (or maybe the top 5 soapy events / the best soapy stuff) that has/have happened that week. I’d also like to start sharing some book reviews (I have an AWFUL lot of soapmaking books, for starters) and also posts about other products that I’ve tried and enjoyed.

Somewhat disconcertingly, out of all my Blogtober posts, the one that received the most ‘likes’ was the recipe for a Swiss Roll. Ohhhh, OK. Nothing to do with soap at all.  Well, this blog is supposed to be about my soaping life, and baking is part of that, so I will probably share some more of my favourites – occasionally.

I do have plenty of ideas for the Wednesday blog posts, I just need to buckle down and write them. Now that I’ve made a commitment to post more regularly, I think I will!

 

 

 

 

Free time? What’s that?

Last month I posted this photo on my Instagram page:

Lovely Language Literature :)

Lovely Language Literature 🙂

It’s a selection of books I’d bought with some Amazon vouchers I’d received for my birthday back in July.  At various points in the subsequent comments I mentioned that my degree is in Linguistics, and as well as being fluent in a second language (Welsh), I have also studied French, German, Spanish and Russian.  Ever since my teenage years I’ve had a passion for anything to do with language in general, and to this day I have a special interest in the history of language and how different language interrelate.

I was fascinated by the comments this post elicited from other soapmakers – so many are bi- or even multi-lingual, and/or have an interest in history, as well as a huge variety of other interests and hobbies.  Soap, soapmaking and soapy social media have a tendency to dominate my life and I forget to take a break and do something completely different.  Truth be told I struggle to find the time to stop and do something different.  Having a business that is also one’s hobby is not the best combination for a good work/life balance it would appear. In the last six weeks I’ve managed to read just the first 35 pages of one of those books, despite finding it deeply absorbing (I usually manage 1.5 – 2 pages in bed before nodding off, no matter how hard I fight it).

So, go on, tell me what you do in your free time. What are your interests, your passions, and how do you find the time to indulge them?

10 Favourite Foods

When I woke on Saturday 1st October, the idea for this blogfest of daily posting came from some fellow bloggers who had all committed to participate in Blogtober 2016 as organised by Mandi at Hex Mum +1

I very much wanted to do my own thing though. I needed to get used to blogging again after a few months away from the keyboard, and I also wanted to find out whether I would/could be inspired to find something to write about every day.

Having got halfway through the month it seems that inspiration isn’t an issue at all, but lack of time is.  I have ideas for many posts, but many of them will take more time than I usually have to do justice to the topic.

So today I’m going to rattle off a fairly quick one, and for this I’m referring back to Mandi’s original list of themes:

Blogtober 2016

        Blogtober 2016

October 19th – 10 Favourite Foods.

I love food. I was a terribly picky, fussy child, but as an adult there’s very little I won’t eat.  Unfortunately, while I’m eating my way through the foods of the world (except for tripe, and goat’s cheese, bleugh!) my children are channelling my youthful aversion to anything remotely interesting.  Karma…

So, in the interests of sharing a little more of me, I give you 10 of my favourite foods, in no particular order (note, I don’t say my 10 favourite foods – there are far too many favourites for that kind of narrow mindedness :-D)

  1. Cheese.  Yep, despite considering goat’s cheese to be an abomination, I LOVE all other types of cheese, especially Camembert and Stilton. A good mature cheddar is a thing of wonder too.
  2. Chocolate Mousse.  Not just any chocolate mousse mind. It has to be a dense, rich, dark chocolate mousse. The more like a ganache the better…
  3. Smoked Salmon.
  4. Great bread dipped in extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  5. Moules Marinière
  6. Steak (rare) and chips
  7. Crispy, oven baked jacket potato with (real) butter and cheese
  8. My mum’s raspberry trifle. Oh my word I salivate just thinking about it. I guess I should share the recipe here sometime.
  9. Pizza.  Not necessarily a fancy pants pizza, just one made by my husband with plenty of mozzarella, pepperoni, onions, peppers and mushrooms. Yum!
  10. Chicken fajitas, nice and spicy with lots of guacamole and sour cream.  A traditional Saturday Night In dish in our house.

I’m not sure whether there’s anything  more you can read between the lines here, but there you go, you now know a little more about this Soapmaker.

Swiss Roll

Today has mostly been spent keeping the children occupied, made easier by the fact we had a 3rd birthday party to attend this afternoon – 28 small children and a bouncy castle kept the adults on their toes!  Once the kids were in bed, wrapping and labelling soap took up most of my evening and once again I’m on the threshold of being late with my latest Blogtober post.  Deadline is T minus 80 minutes – eek!

Today I thought I’d share something a bit different.  I’ve been baking for much, MUCH longer than I’ve been soaping; I was baking with my mother as a small girl, and I’ve continued to do throughout my adult life. There are undoubtedly similarities between soapmaking  and baking, so I thought today I would share one of my recipes and see if I can’t inspire a soapmaker out there to try it.

Sadly, the time to bake just doesn’t seem to materialise these days, and the closest I get to baking is catching up with The Great British Bake Off while wrapping soap. Last week the contestants were asked to make a roulade, which, let’s be honest, is nothing more than a big, fancy Swiss Roll.   Homemade Swiss Roll is MILES better than the mass produced ones that you can buy at the supermarket, is really quick to make and has the added bonus of being a fat-free sponge. What’s not to like?

Swiss Roll

                Swiss Roll

Pre-heat your oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6

Take 3 large eggs.  Weigh these three eggs (unbroken, in their shells) before you do anything else. Once you know the weight of the three eggs, you then need the same weight of caster sugar and plain flour.

Whisk together the eggs and the caster sugar with an electric hand whisk. You’ll need to keep whisking for a good 10 minutes.  The mixture will thicken up and eventually will leave a trail when the whisk taken out of the mixture.  It’s very similar to when soap batter reaches ‘trace’.  Sift in half the flour, and fold in gently. You don’t want to lose any of the air that has been whisked into the mixture. Once the flour is completely folded in, do the same with the remaining flour.  When the ingredients are all combined, pour into a greased, lined 12″ x 9″ baking tray.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the sponge is just cooked. If you go over, it’ll be difficult to roll.

Place a clean (!) tea towel over a cooling rack and dredge it with caster sugar.  Turn the sponge out onto the tea towel, and immediately, while still piping hot, roll it up in the sugar coated cloth.  Allow the sponge to cool down a little, for about 10 minutes, then very gently unroll and remove the cloth. The sponge will hold much of the ‘roll’, without cracking. Spread the ‘inside’ of the roll with jam, chocolate ganache, lemon curd or whatever takes your fancy, and roll it back up again. Ta-da!  You could now carefully slice off both ends (just like a loaf of soap!) and make it look really pretty, but the most important thing is to enjoy!

This is the last one I made, filled with lemon curd. I’m now inspired to make another very soon and I’ll try to add some ‘making of’ pics to this post.

Swiss Roll

                          Swiss Roll

Right, I’m off to press that publish button. Deadline T -29mins 😀