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 😀

Castile, 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 😀 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 🙂

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 😉

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 – made 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 – I 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 🙂

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.

The Week in Soap: 8th Jan ’17

Where did the week go?  The first week of January has come and gone, and it’s time for me to get back into the habit of weekly updates – it’s been a whole month since I last did one of these!

It’s been a fairly quiet week, but I have managed to make a start on restocking the shelves – last Monday saw me making the first two batches of the year, Oatmeal Milk & Honey (OMH) and Serenity:

Oatmeal Milk & Honey / Serenity

Oatmeal Milk & Honey / Serenity

I had this crazy idea that I’d try the Thermal Transfer method for the OMH, and as I could have predicted had I thought about it for longer than a couple of seconds, it didn’t go so well (keep an eye out for another post on that little adventure very soon).  These have now been cut but I’ve not got round to taking any photographs yet (and to be honest, I’m not sure I want to take photographs of the OMH – seriously, it’s a bit of a hot mess…) but there’ll be some up on my Instagram (@thesoapmine) account soon enough.

Tonight I made another three batches. The left hand one is a brand new (to me) Fragrance Oil called Flora, which I’ve done in white, yellow and green (thoughts of spring already…), then we have restocks of First Kiss and Clarity.

Soap in the mould

Soap in the mould

The soaping gremlins were well and truly out to play tonight. The only one to behave properly was First Kiss. Clarity really surprised me by thickening up super-quick. Not sure why – same recipe, same colours and same ratio of eo’s, although the lye water was possibly cooler than usual so it’s likely that was the cause. Anyway, I can usually get wispy drops in this one, but tonight it was a bit, hmmmm, ‘ploppy’.  And Flora…well, it’s a floral fragrance, notoriously bad for acceleration, so I wasn’t entirely unprepared. I used extra water with the lye, and tried not to over mix but it was still thicker than I would have liked, so my dropswirl was a bit, well, ploppy again.  Ho hum, these two won’t be perfect but they WILL smell flippin’ gorgeous!!! 😀

In other news I’ve confirmed a new customer with a sizeable order for my mini guest bars, and I’ve taken a booking to do one of my soap talks in a few months time, so all in all it’s been a productive week.

Hope you’ve all had a great week. Thanks for reading – back soon!

 

Crazy skincare hacks 

I discovered this great skincare blog – Baby Smooth Skin for Adults – yesterday, and loved this post so much I asked for permission to reblog it here. Hope you find it as interesting as I did!

It's a New Day!

​I love reading about unconventional beauty hacks on the Internet. A lot of them are pretty bogus, but every once in a while a little nugget of genius comes your way making all the bizarre trials you’ve done over the years worth it. Here are some of the ones I’ve found useful.

Body lotion as a cleansing lotion

Body lotion formulation isn’t much different from cleansing lotion. Upon that realisation, I don’t buy cleansing lotion anymore. In fact I’ve had better results taking off makeup with body lotion than with conventional cleansing lotions. I find body lotions less emollient and less likely to cause breakouts.

My current favourite body lotion to use as a cleansing lotion is this Nivea q10. It also works great for its intended purpose. Honestly, I heart this lotion so much I can’t wait to tell you about it in a separate review.

Diaper cream as…

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Soap tops revisited

As I was putting together yesterday’s ‘Wet Soap Wednesday on a Friday’ post, I was thinking about how much I like soap tops, and remembered that I’d done a post a while back about them.  When I went looking, I was surprised to find it had been almost two years ago: Soap Tops from November 2014. I was also struck by how different those tops were to the way I do things now. So today’s post is a quick round up of my favourite soap tops from more recent times.

First up is a dupe of the DKNY fragrance, Be Delicious – appley, cucumbery and absolutely….Delicious:

Delicious

Delicious

Then there’s a recent batch of Clarity which turned out just beautifully (last night’s batch didn’t look quite as good as this in the mould!)

Clarity

Clarity

The top of this Oatmeal, Milk & Honey batch swirled really nicely:

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

And this batch of Florida Sunrise (now discontinued) looked gorgeous as it started to gel:

Florida Sunrise

Florida Sunrise

Another recently discontinued fragrance – a custom blend called Enigma, looked luscious freshly swirled:

Enigma

Enigma

Finally I just LOVE how this batch of Serenity looked in the mould:

Serenity

Serenity

I’d be lying if I said every single batch looks like these, but I do tend to add a lot more texture to the tops than I used to, and I think I prefer them that way. I guess it’s about time I revised my header photo!!

 

 

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 Tips for Organising a Craft Fair

10 Tips for Organising a Craft Fair

10 Tips for Organising a Craft Fair

Last Saturday I had a stall at a local craft fair. Not any old craft fair mind you, this was important to me for two reasons. First off, it was right here, in my village – the first one we’ve ever had. Secondly, it was the first craft fair that I’ve organised myself.  It was the culmination of a couple off months of planning, and, if I’m honest, a fair bit of anxiety.  I needn’t have worried – it was a great success, so I thought I’d share with you here a few things to consider if you’d like to organise something similar yourself.

  1. Do your research regarding other markets and craft fairs in the area and make sure your event doesn’t clash with another on the same day. As well as competing for visitors, you’ll also be competing for stallholders.
  2. As soon as you’ve decided on a date, secure your venue.  You don’t want to be inviting stallholders until you’ve confirmed your accommodation for the day.
  3. Invite / organise crafters as far in advance as possible. Many crafters book themselves into markets and craft fairs many months ahead.  It’s also worth considering asking for a deposit on the cost of the table – this decreases the risk of stallholders not turning up on the day.
  4. Ensure that all your stallholders have public liability insurance.
  5. Ensure you know how many tables you can fit into the available space. You don’t want to ask 20 crafters to attend and then find when you’re setting up that you can only fit 19 tables into the room!  It’s definitely worth having a trial ‘set up’ before deciding how many crafters to invite.
  6. Don’t double up on crafts unless it’s a BIG event.  There’s nothing worse for a stallholder than setting up at a fair of, say, 12 stalls to find that there are two or three other stallholders there selling something very similar. It’s not fair on any of them.
  7. Don’t try to charge too much per stall / table, especially if it’s the first time this event has taken place. You won’t have any idea what the footfall is going to be and won’t be able to make any claims as to likely number of visitors.
  8. Advertising, advertising, advertising. You want as many people walking through the door of your venue as possible, so this is an instance where too much advertising is never enough.  Get your event all over Facebook – on your personal feed (ask friends to share), on local selling pages, and on local community sites. Put a small ad in the local newspaper, a paragraph in the parish magazine, get it listed on’What’s Happening in Your Area’ type websites. Make sure there are posters put up in the area. Don’t forget your local tourist bureau and local hotels / guest houses if you live in a popular area for visitors – local crafts are just the thing that they’ll be interested in.
  9. Have a spare cash float or two.  It’s not unheard of for stallholders to arrive at a craft fair without their cash box.  Not me of course, oh no… well, only that once a few months ago 😀 and I was both grateful and impressed that the organisers had thought to bring along a couple of ‘spare’ floats for just that eventuality.
  10. Rope in as much help as possible.  Setting up, decorating the venue and getting plenty of directional signage outside and in the immediate area can take longer than you anticipate.  If you’re also planning on holding  raffle / tombola / lucky dip / cake stall you’ll need yet more hands on deck.
  11. A bonus tip – if you’re holding the craft fair or market to raise money for a local cause, consider also having a raffle / tombola / lucky dip / tea, coffee & cakes stall. Just make sure that you put out the call for donations well in advance