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 Рthe 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 ūüėÄ

ÔĽŅCastile, a quick update

I made the first batch of Castile soap back in mid January and, while convention dictates that it should cure for at least 6 months before use, the devil on my shoulder insisted that I try it out this week, a mere 10 weeks later.

I helped myself to the thickest of the end pieces, and snapped a quick photo:

Castile 10 weeks in...

Castile 10 weeks in…

It’s already a very hard bar, easily as hard as my regular bars after their full 6 week cure. This surprised me somewhat as I’d read that one of the reasons for curing for so long is because it needs longer to harden up.

Detractors of Castile soap often use the word ‘slimy’ to describe it, so I wasn’t expecting too much when I lathered up. ¬†I ran a little warm water and started turning the bar over and over in my hands. ¬†After a few initial biggish bubbles, the lather soon settled into a creamy lather with very small bubbles, an almost lotion type texture. I would definitely describe the feel of the bar as ‘silky’ rather than the ‘slimy’! I would have got a photo or a quick video but there were no spare hands around ūüėÄ After rinsing and drying my hands felt soft and smooth, and I can see why Castile soap is recommended for dry or sensitive skin.

I’ve spoken to other soapmakers who say that they’re more than happy to use their Castile soap before the traditional 6 month cure is up. Others tell me that there’s a distinct difference in the texture of the lather if the soap is left for the full 6 months (or longer). I’m going to enroll an extra pair of hands to help and get a couple of photos or a video of the lather as it is now, and again in two and four months time. I should then have a better idea of the beneficial effect (or otherwise!) of the extended cure time.

If you have any thoughts about Castile soap, be they be for or against, please post below – I’d love to hear from you.

 

January 2017 – Goals Roundup

So that was January! Four and a half weeks of my least favourite time of year, but you know what? It’s been pretty productive. ¬†Back on the 3rd January I posted my goals for the month, and I’m really happy with what’s been achieved since then.

I completed my tax return.  Deadline was today, 31st January, but I made sure it was one of the first things I ticked off my list. Missing that deadline was not an option!

I finally got round to making some Castile soap¬†– something that had been on my list of things to do for aaaages. I’ll be posting an update on the cure is progressing towards the end of next month:

Castile Soap, first attempt

Castile Soap, first attempt

I’ve done a fair bit of research for my facial bar. I’m planning on making two – a charcoal bar for younger / combination skin, and a bar aimed at older skin. ¬†I have a good idea of the recipes now, and hope to make some trial bars next month.

Finally I hoped to post on this blog at least 8 times. Well, this post is the eighth of the month, so a big fat tick for that one too…

I was gentle with myself as far as the personal goals went – I wanted to run 30km, and read a book, any book, just to try to get back into the habit of reading again. Well, I smashed the running – I’ve run 65.5km (!!) during January, and it would have been more had I not picked up a bug which morphed into a cold towards the end of the month which meant I only really ran for the first three weeks or so. ¬†I’ve also started kickboxing once a week, which is hard work but amazing fun.

The reading went pretty well too. ¬†I finished the book that I’d been crawling through for the last three months of 2016 – Lingo: Around Europe in Sixty Languages by Gaston Dorren¬†It’s an extraordinarily interesting book (if you’re as fascinated by languages as I am) and a very easy read. Each stand alone chapter is only a few pages long but packed with facts that made me ooohh and aaahhh with delight as I learned about the vast similarities and differences that exist within the languages of Europe. ¬†I also got halfway through a novel – The Magicians (Book 1) by Lev Grossman. I enjoyed it enough at the beggining, but I had a nagging feeling that it was aimed at a younger readership – maybe a YA novel? Turns out it’s not, but I can’t get excited about the characters, and have decided life’s too short, and reading time too precious, to continue with something that I’m not ABSOLUTELY loving. ¬†I only found out today that it’s been made into a TV series in the US. Have you seen it? ¬†Is it any good? ¬†Anyway, I now need to find a better book to read for February, ‘cos it’s going on that goals list again ūüôā

So there we go – January goals smashed… I was going to include my February goals in this post but it’s got a bit longer than planned, so I’ll leave them for tomorrow – which gives me a little longer to think about them too ūüėČ

Don’t forget to comment below if there’s a particular¬†novel that you would absolutely, definitely recommend I read – I’m open to all and any suggestions and genres (except horror – I don’t do horror)

Thank you if you’ve read this far – the fact that someone might actually read what I write is definitely an incentive to stick to my plans.

Making Castile Soap

Traditional castile soap is made of nothing more than olive oils and a sodium hydroxide solution, and its origins lie in the soap that has been made for many centuries in Aleppo (Syria), from local olive & laurel berry oils. When the recipe was brought to Europe (specifically the Castile area of Spain, with its abundance of olive trees) it would appear that laurel berry oil was hard to come by, leading to it being dropped completely,¬†becoming the 100% olive oil soap that we know today. It’s considered to be the gentlest of soaps – kind to sensitive skin often used as a baby soap (though personally I don’t think very small babies need any soap at all!)

At the beginning of the year I decided to make it one of my goals for January, and hey presto, last week I made my first ever batch of castile. ¬†I don’t always bother with test batches, and I didn’t think an awful lot could go wrong with this one, so dove right in with a full sized batch. The recipe was simply:

  • 1500g Olive Oil
  • 570g Water
  • 193g Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH)

I used my usual method Рmade up the lye solution and left it to cool down to room temperature.  For my regular bars I melt together the hard oils/butters, then add the liquid oils and let it cool down to room temperature, but there was none of that faffing about with this one РI just measured my olive oil out of the bottle and into my mixing bowl.

Olive Oil

Olive Oil

Then added the NaOH and whisked until it was emulsified:

Oil / NaOH Emulsified

Oil / NaOH Emulsified

Gave it a bit of a mix with the handblender until it traced:

Soap Batter at Trace

Soap Batter at Trace

And poured it into the mould:

Castile in the mould

Castile in the mould

I knew from my reading that I probably wouldn’t be able to unmould / cut after my usual 48 day wait, so I left it a little longer, then kind of forgot about it for a couple of days (oops) and eventually unmoulded it 8 days after it was poured. I was happy to note that it was a lot whiter than it originally appeared to be:

Castile 8 days later

Castile 8 days later

Perhaps I’ll only leave it three or four days next time as it was the hardest batch I’ve ever cut, and I feared for the wire on my poor Bud soap cutter. ¬†I took it slowly, and the end result was this:

Castile freshly cut

Castile freshly cut

The usual recommendation is to allow castile soap to cure for a good six months, if not more, as it’s notoriously slow to harden.¬†I’m not convinced though, and will be testing it often in the next few months to see how it’s developing.

By the way, I’ve never actually used castile soap myself. The things I’ve heard haven’t always been particularly positive – the lather has even been described as ‘slimy’, so I’m going to (try to) put the opinions of others out of my head and be as objective as possible. ¬†Stay tuned and I’ll keep you updated ūüôā

Tooth Soap, a review

Have you ever somehow got soap in your mouth? It’s not generally considered to be a nice experience, indeed once upon a time, actively washing out someone’s mouth with soap was done as a punishment. ¬†It’s a phrase that’s still heard today, but I thought it to be a largely apocryphal phenomenon – surely nobody would force soap into another’s mouth? ¬†A quick fact check via Wikipedia confirmed that yes, they really did, and for relatively minor transgressions such as chewing tobacco, using foul language or being intoxicated. Well recently, I’ve been voluntarily and eagerly brushing my teeth with soap, and let me tell you, it’s been a revelation.

To backtrack a little, some time before Christmas I entered into a product swap with an Instagram friend of mine, the lovely Sabine of Cebra Ethical Skincare. I saw an IG post of her for Tooth Soap Paste and really wanted to give it a try, and she was kind enough to agree to swap some of my soap for a bottle of her paste:

Tooth Soap Paste

Tooth Soap Paste / Wooden Vegan Toothbrush

As you can see from the photo, she also sent me one of her vegan wooden toothbrushes as a little added extra, which was incredibly kind of her.

Anyway, I’d been curious about tooth soap for a while. ¬†I’d heard about it of course – the world of soapmaking isn’t that big and I’d seen it discussed in various forums. I really really wanted to try it, but I wasn’t certain it would be for me. ¬†To begin with there’s that whole ‘soap in the mouth’ thing going on (because let’s be clear here, this isn’t just ‘natural toothpaste’, it’s bona fide tooth SOAP, made with saponified oils, just like the soap I make). ¬†I also – wrongly, as it turned out – had this vague notion that it belonged in the realms of hippydom and was the preserve of lentil weavers and crunchy mommas.

Well, thank heavens I got round to trying it, because I absolutely love it. It IS a different experience to using the regular toothpaste that most of us are used to, but in a good way. The main differences are:

  1. The biggie I guess is the flavour. ¬†Sabine uses a clever blend of grapefruit, peppermint and myrrh essential oils to flavour the paste and add other benefits such as freshening the breath, and she doesn’t use any sweeteners. ¬†Consequently the paste tastes very different to commercially made toothpaste, but it does NOT taste ‘soapy’. ¬†To me it’s a very cleansing, refreshing flavour.
  2. ¬†Another big difference is that the tooth soap paste doesn’t contain any foaming agent, and so you won’t get the mouthful of toothpaste bubbles that you get with commercial toothpaste. ¬†Those bubbles are made by adding sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) to the toothpaste, and a quick internet search will give you hundreds of sites telling you how bad these two are supposed to be for us. ¬†Trust me, once you get used to the lack of bubbles, you won’t miss them.
  3. A third difference, and a big plus for me, is how much cleaner the whole of my mouth feels after using this paste. ¬†My teeth feel super-smooth clean, much more so than when I use regular toothpaste, and my whole mouth feels refreshed in a way I just didn’t expect.
  4. A minor difference – Sabine recommends that you put the paste onto a dry toothbrush and brush immediately. Don’t add water before brushing. ¬†I confess that sometimes I’m on automatic pilot prior to brushing my teeth and automatically run the brush under the tap before brushing but mostly these days I remember not to. ¬†It does make a difference

I continue to enjoy using this product immensely. Yes, it’s a little pricier than regular mass produced toothpaste, but it’s handmade, it’s vegan, it’s organic, it’s ethical (check out the facts), it’s VERY effective and it lasts for aaaaaages. Really, what more could you want? If you’ve ever been curious about trying tooth soap then I would urge you to try Sabine’s first – I’m very glad I did!

You can find Cebra Ethical Skincare on the web here , on Facebook here , on Twitter here, and on Instagram here.

Please Note – I was NOT given a free sample to review, and all views are entirely my own.