Sunday, March 20, 2016

"The ONE Mold" Review

I know, it has been a while since I've posted.

But! That doesn't mean that I haven't been soaping. I've been working on something big, something YOOGE for the past couple of months.

A while back, Tim from Lancaster Soapmakers contacted me and offered to send me one of his molds so I could review it. He sent me his latest creation, a 3-in-1 mold called The ONE Mold.

And here it is!

With just a change of a few pieces, the mold can go from a shapes mold, to a slab mold, to a three-loaf mold.

And it doesn't need to be lined! I don't know which part I like best - that I can do three different things with the mold, or that I don't have to line it. A removable silicone mat covers the bottom of the wooden mold, and acrylic pieces line the sides. The mold comes with a set of slab dividers to make twelve individual bars, and it also has dividers that slide into the liner pieces to make three separate loaves.

Want to see how the mold works? Check out my intro video:

Now on to the soapmaking.

For the first batch, I decided to try out the flowers tray mold. Tim also sent me a circles tray, but I decided to use the flowers here because spring is coming. And also because I immediately had an idea for the flowers mold. The tray is made of thick HDPE plastic and it sits on top of the silicone mat. The tray has holes drilled into the sides and pins hold the tray in place in the wooden mold.

Floral fragrance oils can be tricky, so I decided to go with lavender essential oil since it hasn't given me any trouble thus far, acceleration-wise. Of course, the colors purple and green came to mind, so I chose to do an in-the-pot swirl with those colors. After I scented the soap and brought it just to the point of emulsification, I portioned off about a half cup into two measuring cups and colored one green and the other dark purple. Then I colored the rest of the soap a light purple (purple pigment plus titanium dioxide). To make the swirl, I poured the dark purple soap into my bowl of light purple soap at the 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock positions, and the green at the 6 o'clock and 12 o'clock positions. Then I moved a spoon through the soap just a couple of times, being careful not to overmix. As I poured the soap into the mold, the soap continued to swirl.

After a couple of days, I put the HDPE portion in the freezer for a few hours to make unmolding easier, just in case the soap was still a bit soft. I was then able to push on the backs of the soaps and they popped right out.

The tray mold worked beautifully - no leaking, no sliding. Just perfectly shaped flowers. And I love how my ITP swirl turned out!

Want to see me make these flower soaps? Here ya go!

Next up was the slab mold, which creates 12 individual bars. To construct the slab mold, I put down the silicone mat and lined the sides with the acrylic pieces. The mold comes with dividers, which I assembled ahead of time so I could just drop them into my soap when I was ready.

I saw a really cool tutorial on the interwebs by Amanda at the Lovin' Soap Studio called "Retro Roses soap design" and I decided to use it for my slab soap. The idea is to use squirt bottles to create roses and leaves on top of the soap.

To make the soap, I used a slow-tracing recipe of 50% olive oil, 30% coconut oil, 15% shea butter, and 5% castor oil. (This is the recipe I used for the Lavender ITP swirl soaps above, too.) For the scent, I chose Bramble Berry's Energy FO. It's not floral - it's rather citrusy - but it is well-behaved and it doesn't discolor.

I portioned off about a half cup of soap into each of my measuring cups and colored one red and the other green and transferred each to a squeeze bottle. Then I split the remaining soap and colored one portion green and the other white. I poured a layer of green and then spooned a layer of white on top of it. Using my squeeze bottles, I made red circles and green dots. (Tip: snip the tips of the bottles a bit to help the soap come out easier.) Using a toothpick, I swirled the red circles from the outside in, incorporating some of the white soap into the red. Then I dragged another toothpick through the green dots to make leaves.

Once the roses design was finished, I dropped my dividers into the soap, gently pressing them down to the bottom of the mold.

After about a week and a half, I unmolded the soap. I would have unmolded it sooner, but I got the laryngitis and had to wait until my voice came back so I could film again. The soap was still slightly soft but firm enough to unmold without any trouble. I could have also put the acrylic portion of the mold into the freezer to help with unmolding if I was worried about soft soap.

To unmold, I turned the wooden mold upside down and let the acrylic portion gently slide out. Then I peeled the silicone mat away, slid the acrylic sides away - sliding, not pulling - and then began to slide the bars away from the dividers. Once I had removed a few bars, I was able to remove the dividers as well. The liners and dividers slid away from the soap very easily and I had no trouble unmolding.

The red did drag through the bars a bit when I put the dividers in, but that is no fault of the mold. It is just the nature of the pigment. To avoid that in the future, I could put the dividers in and then make the design on the individual bars. Or perhaps a different colorant would be less prone to dragging. I think it looks kinda cool, though, no?

Here's a video showing the making of these slab bars:

Finally, I tried out the loaf mold configuration. The mold makes three loaves this way and holds about ten pounds of soap. This was the biggest batch of soap I have ever made. None of my bowls were big enough, so I used a dishpan to mix up my soap. Then I split the batch into three equal parts and colored one green, one white, and one black using activated charcoal.

My plan was to do a tiger stripe swirl, but my soap batter got very thick. This rather surprised me, as I was using a well-behaved fragrance oil (Bramble Berry's Wasabi FO) and almost the same recipe as the other two batches. I did have to tweak my recipe a bit because I didn't have enough shea butter. Instead of using shea butter at 15%, I used it at 10% and included 5% mango butter to make up the difference. (And, of course, I ran my tweaked recipe through a lye calculator.) I also was using a different brand of olive oil for this batch. I wonder if that small amount of mango butter could have made such a big impact, or if the new olive oil had something to do with my soap getting thick?

Anyway, I decided to switch gears and do a Celine Swirl since my soap was so thick. So I layered the green, white, and black soap, alternating the colors, and then used a spoon to scoop the soap from the bottom of the mold up to the top all the way down one side of each loaf and then down the other side. This technique also creates beautiful peaks on top of the soap.

About three days later, I unmolded the soap. The soap was pretty hard, so I didn't bother putting it in the freezer. Unmolding it was similar to unmolding the slab bars. I tipped the wooden mold upside down to let the acrylic portion slide out, peeled away the silicone mat, and then slid the sides away. I slid the two loaves on either side away from the dividers, and then slid the dividers away from the remaining middle loaf. Again, it was an easy and clean removal.

And here is a video for the Celine Swirl soaps:

So what did I think of this mold? Two enthusiastic thumbs up!

There are many things to like about this mold.

I like that you can do three totally different things with one mold. All you have to do is move a few pieces around.  So instead of having a slab mold over here, some loaf molds over there, and a bunch of shapes molds scattered around, you have one mold that can do it all. It sounds like a variety of shapes trays is available - The ONE Mold website says that "the design shapes range from lighthearted flowers, hearts and clovers to geometric circles, squares and triangles."

And I LOOOVE that it doesn't need to be lined. Making liners can be such a pain and this mold eliminates that.

The soap is easy to unmold, the mold's pieces are easy to clean, and the mold is easy to put together and take apart.

The mold is of a very high quality, too. It's sturdy, and the soap doesn't leak out. I can tell that this mold was made by a soapmaker with other soapmakers in mind, and it seems that a lot of thought and care went into its design.

I have no criticisms of the mold - there is nothing that I don't like about it, and nothing that I would suggest changing.

As a side note, I have another mold that Tim designed, but I didn't know that it was his design until recently. I bought one of his acrylic slab molds from Soap Making Resource in 2011 and it has been my go-to slab mold ever since. (In fact, it was the only slab mold I had until now.) It is similar to the slab mold here, but it is held together with rods and bolts instead of a wooden box. Whenever I use it in a video, people are like OMG WHERE DID YOU GET THAT MOLD?! I have enjoyed that mold for all of these years and it is still in excellent shape, and I expect that this 3-in-1 mold will hold up just as well.

So if you like the looks of this mold, please check out The ONE Mold website at The ONE Mold also offers custom logo plates upon request, which is a great alternative to stamping soaps.

And also take a look at the Lancaster Soapmakers website. You'll find a wide selection of soap molds there - wooden molds, acrylic molds, HDPE molds, slab molds, loaf molds, column molds, vertical molds.

The ONE Mold/Lancaster Soapmakers team welcomes custom work, so if you have something in mind, do contact them.

You can also connect with The ONE Mold and Lancaster Soapmakers through their Facebook page.

I want to say a big thank you to Tim for sending me this mold and letting me review it! It is an awesome, versatile mold and I had a lot of fun playing with it. It will hold a special place on my soapmaking shelf as a favorite!

And, as always, thank you to all of you for reading!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Candy Cane Taiwan Swirl

Happy holidays, everyone!

I hope you all are gearing up for a wonderful time with your loved ones. My husband and I are going home to Florida for Christmas and we're looking forward to spending time with family and friends. I am especially looking forward to being declared the loser of our annual Goofy Golf putt-putt game. It's tradition.

It's also tradition for me to give family and friends the gift of soap whether they want it or not. Just kidding, they all want it. Who wouldn't?

And it just wouldn't be the holidays without peppermint and candy canes.

I usually make a candy cane soap every year, and I try to come up with a different way to do it each time, too. This year, I decided to try the Taiwan Swirl.  You may remember that I attempted a Taiwan swirled candy cane soap last year and things didn't quite work out. But this year things went more according to plan.

For starters, my recipe behaved this time. I used the same recipe that I used for my Pumpkin Gingerbread Vertical Swirl: 50% olive oil, 30% coconut oil, 15% avocado oil, and 5% castor oil with a 5% superfat factored in. Both times I have used this recipe, it traced slowly for me. I had been having difficulty finding a palm-free recipe that creates a loose, thin trace, which is what is needed for something like the Taiwan Swirl. In fact, I had to stickblend the soap batter for quite a while to get to a light trace. I have been trying for months to rid myself of my tendency to overmix, so it feels strange to stickblend and stickblend and stickblend ... and stickblend some more.

The downside of this recipe is that it makes quite a soft soap initially. It needs to hang out in the mold for a little extra time. Even then, I think I may make it a habit to put my mold in the freezer for a few hours before unmolding when using this recipe to ensure a clean removal. Looking back, I was probably very lucky that the soap didn't tear when I unmolded it.

For the liquid, I swapped coconut milk for the water just because I had several baggies of it in my freezer and thought that it would be a nice addition. I cook with coconut milk frequently and often have some left over from a recipe. So I just measure it out, pour it in a baggie, write the weight on the bag, and put it in the freezer. If I don't use the leftover in a future culinary adventure, it goes into a batch of soap.

It's good to freeze milks anyway before using them in soap because if the milk gets too hot it can scorch. When you add the lye, it will melt the frozen milk. I also stir the lye solution in an ice bath to keep the temps as low as possible.

My fragrance cabinet is running low on holiday scents, but I did have some peppermint and spearmint essential oils. Yay, since I wanted to make a candy cane soap.

For the colorants, I opted for titanium dioxide, Merlot Sparkle mica, and Hydrated Chrome Green pigment mixed with a bit of oil pulled from the total to work out the clumps.

To do the Taiwan Swirl, I had the help of some awesome dividers from Great Soap Shop on Etsy. These dividers fit the RED Essential Depot silicone mold, but Great Soap Shop also offers similar dividers that fit the Crafter's Choice 1501, Bramble Berry 10" silicone molds, and American Soap Supply Tall & Skinny molds. (RED stands for "Revolutionary Essential Depot," if you were wondering.)

Here is a video showing what I did:

I mixed my essential oils into my soapmaking oils and then added the coconut milk/lye solution. I brought the soap to a light trace. Then I split my batch into four portions.

Because I am dreadful at eyeballing things, I broke out the calculator to help me figure out how much soap I needed for each cavity of my divider. A nice feature of SoapCalc is that it will estimate your soap's total weight. For this batch, my total weight was approximately 1,980 grams. So I divided that number by four to get 495g, which is how much I would need for each cavity. I wanted to do a white-red-green-white pattern, so I figured I needed 495g of red, 495g of green, and the rest could be white.

I pressed down on the dividers as I poured the soap so that it wouldn't leak over onto the other side. It's probably best to have a buddy simultaneously pour two colors while you pour the other two to keep the soap from leaking underneath the dividers. I was alone, though, so I pressed down as I poured some white into one cavity, then some red into another, some green into another, and more white in another. I did pretty well with minimal leaking, and once I had some soap in each cavity the soap didn't migrate anymore.

Once I had poured all of my soap, I carefully pulled the dividers straight up and out. There was soap still clinging to the dividers, so I grabbed a silicone mold with individual cavities and scraped the soap into it.

To do the swirl, I stuck a candy thermometer (a chopstick or something similar would also work) to the bottom of the mold and made a tight S-pattern vertically through the soap. Then I made a similar pattern through the soap horizontally as well.

The cut for the Taiwan Swirl is a little different than what I normally do for a loaf soap. Instead of cutting the bars every inch or so, I cut the soap into roughly two-and-half-inch blocks and then cut those blocks in half horizontally. (The cutting starts at about the 11:55 point in the video above if you want to skip to it to see what I mean.)  The swirls run through the entire loaf, so by cutting horizontally, the swirls will cover more of each soap bar's surface. I used a finished bar from another batch to help me determine where to cut.

The top of my soap loaf had a bit of soda ash, but I steamed it away.

I really love these bars, and I think my family and friends will, too! And I am so thrilled that I FINALLY managed to achieve a trace light enough to allow me to swirl.

What are your plans for the holidays? I hope that you all have a wonderful holiday season and a happy New Year!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Pumpkin Gingerbread Vertical Swirl

It is autumn, which means that it is time for pumpkin-flavored and pumpkin-scented everythings.

I love pumpkin season. Mostly because of the eating of the pumpkins. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bagels, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin lattes.

Pumpkin soup.

But also pumpkin soap.

Here is my contribution to Pumpkin Mania: a pumpkin-gingerbread swirl soap.

I knew that I wanted to make a pumpkin-themed soap. I went to my fragrance cabinet to see what was there and I discovered that I had an ounce of Bramble Berry's Pumpkin Pie Cybilla fragrance oil, which it appears they no longer carry. (It had been hanging around for a few years and I forgot that I had it.)

The Pumpkin Pie fragrance oil would most likely discolor brown, though, due to the vanilla content. I didn't want a brown soap. So I wondered, how can I make the brown work to my advantage?

That's when I decided to combine it with a Gingersnap fragrance oil. My plan was to make half of the soap orange and unscented, and the other half scented with both the Pumpkin Pie and Gingersnap fragrance oils. The unscented half would stay orange, and the scented half would turn brown. I suppose that I could have used just the Pumpkin Pie fragrance oil, but a) I didn't have enough of it for the whole batch, and b) the Gingersnap fragrance makes the brown color make more sense (or scents?), at least in my mind anyway.

I'm calling it Gingerbread, though. Just cuz I wanna.

Next I had to decide on a design. I remembered this tutorial from the Soap Queen blog using Bramble Berry's vertical mold to make a half-circle design in the soap.

The idea is to pour one color into each side of the vertical mold. Then you lift the divider out just enough to get it out of its groove, twist it 180 degrees, and then carefully pull the divider all of the way out. It is supposed to make half-circle designs on each side of the soap; in this case, orange soap with a brown half-circle on one side, and brown soap with an orange half-circle on the other.

Here's a video of me making this soap:

My design didn't turn out as crisp as I would have liked, but it is still a neat look. I think I just need more practice.

For this project, I went with 50% olive oil, 30% coconut oil, 15% avocado oil, and 5% castor oil with a 5% superfat figured into the recipe. It seemed to trace slowly for me. I wanted the trace to be at about medium to help the design stay crisper, so I had to stickblend for quite a while, which is something I usually have to stop myself from doing.

Before adding the lye solution, I stickblended three ounces (84 grams) of pumpkin puree into my oils to get it really well incorporated. ( I also subtracted three ounces of water from the recipe to make up for the water content of the pumpkin.) Then I added the lye solution and brought the soap to trace. I split the batch in half and colored one half with orange mica, mixed with a bit of oil pulled from the total to work out the clumps. I added all of the fragrance oil to the other half and left it uncolored since the fragrance oil would turn it brown. The scented half got a little thick with all of that fragrance oil in it, but it was manageable. The unscented orange half stayed pretty loose.

Then I poured the orange soap into one side of the mold and the scented soap into the other side. I like to pour the two halves simultaneously to keep the divider from coming loose and sliding around. After pouring, I twisted the divider as described above.

While this recipe has a nice slow trace, it does make a soft soap initially. I left it in the mold for a long time - about two weeks - which is probably much longer than I needed to. I'm just lazy. But it probably does need to sit a little longer before cutting to let some water evaporate and allow the soap to firm up a bit.

I had some trouble getting the plastic liners to come away from the soap because it was so soft, but I was able to remove them after putting the soap in the freezer for a few hours. Then I let the soap sit for a couple more days before cutting. When I did finally cut it, it cut well and didn't seem especially soft anymore.

I've tested an end piece and some of the leftover soap and it is very nice! It feels great on the skin and smells delicious.

And the soap pairs nicely with my pumpkin-scented body lotion. Always have to buy some of that this time of year!

Oh, and what to do with any leftover pumpkin puree? Pumpkin Blondies! (I just swapped pumpkin for the sweet potato.)

Are you a pumpkin fan? If so, what is your favorite way to incorporate pumpkin into your projects?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Dragon's Blood Drop Swirl Soap


Did I scare you?

It's almost Halloween, and so a Halloween soap is in order. I got some of my mojo back and actually felt like soaping, so I hurried to my fragrance cabinet and perused my stash. You may recall that when we moved only a few of my fragrance oils made the trip and I am trying to use them up before buying more. I know, HAHAHA!, right? So far, though, I haven't bought any more scents, but the next time I go shopping for supplies ... well, you know how you start clicking on things and then those things have a way of sneaking into your cart and then later, after you emerge from a hazy fragrance fog, you're like, "Where did all of my monies go?"

Anyway, I had some Dragon's Blood fragrance oil from Elements Bath and Body. I immediately thought of a black and red soap. And the drop swirl technique would be perfect for making gruesome bloody droplets of bloody blood.

To make the soap, I brought the batch to a very light trace. I successfully resisted the urge to stickblend ONE MORE TIME, so the batch stayed fairly loose. I think that I could have stopped stickblending even sooner, though. I'll work on that. I'm almost there.

For the recipe itself, I used 50% olive oil, 30% coconut oil, 15% shea butter, and 5% castor oil. I'm still trying to come up with a palm-free recipe that I like. So far, this one seems promising.
 Here is a video showing how I made this soap:

Because the fragrance oil discolors brown, I didn't scent the entire batch. After bringing the soap to a light trace, I portioned off one cup in a measuring cup and left it unscented. Then I colored the rest of the soap black with activated charcoal and added all of the fragrance oil to the black soap. (I used one teaspoon of activated charcoal per pound of oils, so two teaspoons total for this batch. I also mixed the charcoal with some oil pulled from the total to work out any clumps.) Then I colored the unscented cup of soap with one teaspoon of Merlot Sparkle Mica. This way, the red soap will stay red and the black soap will hide any discoloration from the fragrance oil.

Next I poured the black soap into my mold. To make the drop swirls, I poured the red soap from up high in a random pattern. Pouring from higher up allows the drop swirls to sink deeper into the soap.

Once I was done pouring the red soap, I swirled and texturized the top of the loaf, being careful not to disturb the drop swirls beneath the surface.

To do drop swirls, it's important to keep the soap loose and to maintain a light trace. As I said, I resisted the urge to overmix. And I also soaped a little bit cooler - around 93 degrees F.

These bars turned out boo-tifully! And I tested an end piece and it lathers white, so I don't think I overdid it with the charcoal.

I've got a couple more soap ideas rattling around in my head. Next up will be an autumn-themed soap, and then a holiday soap.

In the meantime, have a safe and fun Halloween! I think this year we might actually have trick-or-treaters in the neighborhood. Instead of candy maybe I should hand out slivers of soap, eh?

Nah. Candy. Definitely candy.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Lemon-Lime Spinning Swirl Fail

So, it's been forever since I've blogged. And it's been forever since I've made any soap. I made this batch in May and that's been it. Part of it is because I've still got soap bars that are a year or two old that I need to use up before I make more. Although if I'm going to make any soaps for the holidays it's about time to get going.

Truth is, I just haven't been interested in blogging lately.

For the past few months I have been distracted by other things, other interests. I just haven't been able to get myself in gear to write a blog post. I would sit down at the computer to do it and then be all like BLURGH. It has taken me months of doing a little here and a little there to get this post done.

My lack of enthusiasm isn't helped when projects go wrong. I'm still struggling with soap batter that is chronically thick. I think I am overmixing, even when I try not to. I see it when I play back the videos. The soap is emulsified and loose and then I watch in horror as I pick up the stickblender one more time and buzz away. In my head I scream, "PUT THAT THING DOWN YOU CRAZY PERSON!" I think I'm afraid of not mixing enough, of getting a false trace, and so I hit it one more time just to be sure. When I feel that urge to stickblend one more time, I need to recognize it and stop myself.

So, as a result of my hyper-diligence, my soap got too thick. Again.

The plan was to create a spinning swirl (or spin swirl, I've heard both and I'm not sure which is correct), a technique that has been very popular lately among soapmakers. I don't know where the spinning swirl originated, but here is a short and beautiful video showing how the spinning swirl is supposed to work. (If anyone knows who came up with the spinning swirl technique, please let me know in the comments so I can credit the creator!)

Here is a video of my spinning swirl fail. Of course, it's not a useful tool for properly illustrating the technique, but it will give you an idea of how this project went for me:

To do the spinning swirl, you basically do a faux funnel pour in each corner of your mold (a slab mold works best for this). In the demonstrations I've seen, the soapmaker alternates colors in two diagonal corners and, after several passes, pours from the other two corners as well. Then the mold is spun on the countertop to make the swirls.

You need to have a very fluid, thinly-traced soap for this to work. I have used this recipe before and it behaved beautifully for me in the past. A while back, I made an Orange Basil Swirled Hearts Soap using the same recipe from The Nova Studio Blog that I used here. (It's the second recipe: 41% olive oil, 25% coconut oil, 25% mango butter, 6% avocado oil, and 3% shea butter.) This recipe traced slowly when I made my Orange Basil soap and I was hoping for a repeat performance this time, but my soap was too thick and I was unable to achieve the spinning effect. So, instead of spinning the mold, I used a skewer to draw a circular pattern through my soap. It's still pretty, but not what I was going for.

And I don't think my fragrance oils (Lemon Sugar and Lime Crystal Kisses, both by Elements Bath and Body) were to blame for the acceleration. The vendor notes and reviews don't mention any problems with acceleration. Most likely I just overmixed my soap. And it probably would have helped to soap a bit cooler, maybe around 90 degrees F instead of 100-105 F.

On the bright side, for a fail this soap turned out pretty well! Looking at the photos, I thought, "That's a nice-looking soap. Not too shabby there, Captain Stickblender." I love how the swirls are throughout the entire bar. These should be really pretty to use, revealing new swirls with each wash.

So things could have gone worse. The soap is still beautiful and it smells nice. The lather feels very luxurious, too.

Yay for happy endings! Now if I could just get my mojo back.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Chocolate Patchouli Soap

Hear me out now.

Chocolate and patchouli are really good together, you guys.

What made me combine the two?

Well, my husband kinda gave me the idea. There was a bar of Geranium Patchouli soap in the bathroom. After he showered, he smelled faintly of patchouli. Then he put on some cocoa butter lotion. And I remarked that he smelled like chocolate and patchouli.

You can guess what happened next.

Off to my fragrance stash, where I knew I had some patchouli essential oil. But did I have anything chocolate-y?

Why, yes, I did. Bramble Berry's Chocolate Espresso Cybilla FO. Funny, I don't pick up any of the coffee notes in this scent. It just smells like chocolate to me. A Tootsie Roll, to be exact. Which worked out great for this soap.

For the fragrance ratio, I used the Chocolate Espresso at a 3:1 rate with the patchouli EO. So, for two pounds of oils, I used 1.5 ounces of the Chocolate Espresso and .5 ounces of patchouli. Looking back, I think I might enjoy a 1:1 ratio better. I was afraid to use too much patchouli because it is such a strong scent and I worried that it would overpower the chocolate. But the chocolate is pretty strong, too, and I mostly smell chocolate in the finished bars, although it seems that the patchouli blooms a bit when the soap is used.

The recipe is based on a Soap Queen guest post called "Sea Clay Avocado Facial Bar" written by Amanda at Lovin' Soap. I didn't use any sea clay, though, and I did swap out canola oil for the olive oil because gawd have you seen how much olive oil costs lately? And of course, I ran the recipe through a lye calculator after making the substitution.

Amanda's recipe includes a good amount of cocoa butter, which goes with the chocolate theme nicely. And I also colored the soap with a bit of cocoa powder at a rate of 1 teaspoon per pound of oil. So, I used 2 teaspoons total here and mixed the cocoa powder with a couple of Tablespoons of oil pulled from the total. I tested an end piece and the soap lathers white, so I think that is probably an okay amount to use. The Chocolate Espresso contains vanilla and discolors the soap brown anyway, but I thought that the cocoa powder would work nicely with the theme as well.

And speaking of cocoa butter, here's a "grate" tip I heard (I can't remember where) for making it easier to work with - use a cheese grater! Take those big chunks of rock-hard cocoa butter and grate them down into manageable shreds. Grate a whole bunch and store it in an airtight container. The cocoa butter shreds are easier to measure and they melt faster, too.

For this batch, I decided to make some gold mica lines, which I thought would look striking against the dark brown color of the soap. I poured about one-third of my batter into my mold and then propped the mold up at an angle with a couple of packs of playing cards. Then I spooned a bit of gold mica into a tea strainer and gently tapped out a light layer of mica onto the surface of the soap. It is important to just cover the surface and to not be heavy-handed - too much mica can make your layers separate.

After I made the first mica line, the plan was to spoon some more soap on top (being very careful not to disturb the mica line) and then tilt the mold the other way to make a line slanting the other direction. I opted to just leave the mold level, though, and to do a straight line, mostly because the soap batter was pretty thick at that point and not very fluid. So I made my second mica line, spooned the rest of the soap on top of it, and then finished it off by sprinkling a bit more gold mica and texturing the tops.

Then I insulated the mold with a towel and set it aside to let it gel. I admit that I have been known to peek at the soap during this stage. I'm glad I looked because the soap heated up pretty quickly and even started to crack a bit on top. So once the soap was in full gel phase, I removed the towel and the cover. Another reason I'm glad I peeked is because it allowed me to photograph the soap about halfway through gel phase. See how it's darker in the middle? The heat radiates from the center outward toward the edges, which is why your soap may get a dark circle in the middle if it only partially gels.

If you look closely, you can see droplets of moisture forming on top of the soap.

The soap developed some moisture on top, but the liquid wasn't zappy at all. I suspect that it was either fragrance oil or condensation from a very hot gel phase.  I let it sit for several days and the soap reabsorbed most of the liquid. When I went to unmold, the sides were a bit wet, too, but, again, it wasn't zappy, so I just blotted the loaf dry with a paper towel.

Here's a video of the making of this soap:

To the cut the soap, I laid the loaf on its side. Cutting from top-to-bottom can drag your mica line through the bar - cutting the soap on its side minimizes dragging and helps keep your mica lines cleaner.

I am very happy with how these bars turned out, and they smell so good. It was difficult not to lick the bowl while I was making this soap - it looked and smelled just like chocolate cake batter.

What are some of your favorite chocolate scent combinations?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Bedtime Bath Salt Bars

Can you believe that it has been four months since I made a batch of soap?

I made my Christmas Tree Feather Swirl soap in late September and that was it for 2014. My husband and I had a cross-country move looming and I was busy with a million things getting ready for it. Plus I didn't want to haul a bunch of uncured soap two thousand miles.

By late January, we were settled enough in our new home for me to start thinking about making soap again. After such a long hiatus, I was worried that I wouldn't remember how to make soap. So I chose something simple by design and also out of necessity. I was out of almost all of my oils, as I had used most of them up and didn't want to buy more until after we moved. But I did have some coconut oil left, and two pounds of pink Himalayan sea salt.

You know what that means.


(You may remember that I adore salt bars. Hubby likes them, too. You can see previous batches that I've made here. And here.)

I did drag some fragrance oils with us on our road trip. And a bottle of lavender FO leaked all over the place. BUT the car smelled lovely. And lavender is known to be calming, and it is important to stay calm while driving.

One of the scents that made the cut was Element's Bedtime Bath fragrance oil, which also happens to feature lavender - along with chamomile - and it smells like a popular brand of baby lotion.

Salt soap batter gets thick pretty fast once the salt is added, so swirls and other intricate designs are just about impossible. So I decided to do a two-layer soap.

For this batch of salt soap, I used 100% coconut oil. Salt is a lather-killer, so a large percentage of coconut oil is necessary to restore the lather. In fact, coconut oil lathers well in salt water, unlike other oils. And because coconut oil can be drying in high amounts, I included a high superfat of 20% to make the soap more nourishing.

My recipe called for 32 ounces of oils. I decided to use the salt at a 1:1 oil:salt ratio, meaning that I used equal amounts of oil and salt. So for 32 ounces of oil, I used 32 ounces of salt.

The colors that came to mind for this baby lotion-type fragrance were pink and purple, probably due to marketing influences. I brought the soap to trace and then split it in to two equal portions. One portion I colored with ultramarine pink, the other with ultramarine violet.

Next I added 16 ounces of pink Himalayan salt to each portion. Then I poured the purple layer into my acrylic slab mold, smoothed it out, and then carefully poured the pink layer on top of it. Once both layers were poured, I inserted the dividers and let the soap gel.

A few days later, I unmolded the bars. Salt bars get hard really fast, so I could have unmolded much sooner. I just didn't get around to it right away. I especially like using my slab mold with dividers for salt bars because it takes all of the guesswork out of when to cut the soap. Salt soap needs to be cut at just the right time. Wait too long and you get a crumbly mess. With the dividers, I don't have to worry about cutting. And because salt bars are so hard, unmolding was a breeze.

Here's a videoooooooooo!

I'm glad that I've got a new batch of salt bars made and curing! We'll be set for a while now. And with such a fresh, soothing scent, we'll smell like clean, happy babies!