Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey Soap

My Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey soap
I have been wanting to make goat's milk soap for a while now, so a couple of weeks ago I decided to give it a whirl. I have used goat's milk soap made by other soapmakers, and I love the rich, creamy lather.

Usually I use distilled water for the liquid portion of my recipe, but many liquids can be used instead - beer, wine, tea, milks, fruit or vegetable juices and purees, etc. I substituted the entire water portion of my recipe with fresh goat's milk.

Honestly, I was a bit afraid to try goat's milk soapmaking before now because I had heard that it can be a temperamental process and requires more experience. After 15 months of making cold process soaps, I felt I had enough batches of regular soap under my belt to give goat's milk soap a try.

Making goat's milk soap does require some preparation in advance. Milks contain natural sugars, which can make the lye solution or the soap overheat. Ever curdled milk on your stovetop? Blech. Scorched milk-lye solution turns orange-brown and smells horrid; also, the lye can bubble up and volcano, which is not an ideal situation. Overheated soap can crack, separate into an oily mess, or become a lumpy disaster commonly referred to as "alien brains." To avoid overheating, it is best to freeze the goat's milk, add the lye very slowly, and keep your oils cool.

Frozen goat's milk
The day before I was planning to make my soap, I took out my scale and measured the amount of goat's milk I would need for the batch. I poured the measured milk into a plastic baggie so I could lay it flat in my freezer. (I froze the rest of the milk like this, too, since I pretty much stick to the same recipe and use the same amount of liquid each time.)

On soapmaking day, I took the milk out of the freezer and let it sit on the counter to thaw a bit while I set up my work space and got my oils and additives ready.

Because I was going to use an Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey fragrance oil, I decided to add honey and ground oats to my goat's milk soap, too. I bought a coffee grinder just for soapmaking, and I used it to grind up my oats. (The oats were the regular old-fashioned oats - quick-cooking oats can go mushy in soap. I used one Tablespoon of oats per pound of oils.) I dissolved my honey in a bit of warm distilled water to make it more fluid. (I used two teaspoons of honey total for two pounds of oils, mixed with one Tablespoon of warm distilled water.)
Grinding oats (1 Tbsp oats per pound of oils); ground oats and honey (1 tsp honey per pound of oils)
Once my oils were heated and combined and my additives were ready, I got to work on my milk-lye solution. I added my slushy/frozen goat's milk to my lye pitcher, breaking the frozen milk into chunks as I went, and then set the pitcher in an ice bath that was waiting for me in the sink. (Wondering why I make my ice bath in a dishpan instead of just using the sink basin? Well, the drain stopper for the sink has gone disappearin'. I've bought two replacement stoppers, neither of which worked out. I figured it was cheaper and easier to just get a dishpan and be done with it.) Then I gradually added my lye to the milk. I sprinkled some lye flakes on the milk, stirred for a bit, added some more lye, stirred for a bit, etc., until I had added all of my lye. Then I kept stirring the solution in the ice bath until the milk was melted and the lye was fully dissolved. I monitored the temperature and made sure that the lye solution never got hotter than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The milk stayed a nice creamy yellow color.
Frozen goat's milk in lye pitcher (l); goat's milk-lye solution (r)
I was quite pleased with myself - my milk-lye had stayed cool and it hadn't changed color much. I did a temperature check on my oils; they were around 110 degrees, about 15 degrees warmer than I wanted them to be. So I took the milk-lye solution out of the ice bath and replaced it with my bowl of oils so I could cool them down faster.

That's when things got interesting.

During the few minutes I was stirring my oils in the ice bath, my milk-lye solution thickened up to a pudding-like consistency! I am kicking myself now for not taking a picture, but honestly I was so freaked out that all I could think to do was to hurry up and get it into the oils before it set up any further. I quickly added my fragrance oil and honey to my oils and then spooned/scraped my lye solution into the oils. After giving everything a buzz with the stick blender, the soap smoothed out and behaved beautifully, just like a perfect batch. After reaching a medium trace, I stirred my ground oats in with a spatula and then poured my soap into my lined mold.
Adding ground oats at trace (l); pouring soap into mold (r)
So what was the deal with the pudding-like lye solution? I consulted my friends at a couple of soap forums I belong to and the consensus seemed to be that the lye had begun saponifying the fats in the milk, which made it thicken up. I had never heard of this phenomenon before. No one had ever mentioned it in anything I had ever read, and none of the videos I watched on making goat's milk soap featured pudding lye. But after some discussion, it seems that this is fairly common when working with milks. Good to know for next time.

Gel phase! See how it's getting hot and gelatinous in the center?
I decided to let my goat's milk soap go through gel phase, which occurs when the soap heats up and becomes gelatinous first in the middle and then all the way out to the edges. Some soapmakers choose to avoid gel phase by popping the soap into the refrigerator or freezer after pouring it into the mold. Ungelled soaps tend to retain a lighter color, and the fridge keeps the soap from overheating. I usually gel my soaps, though - I like the texture of gelled soaps, and I'd rather have a darker gelled soap than a partially gelled soap. Partial gelling leaves a dark circle in the middle of the soap - totally harmless, but not pretty. I insulated with a single towel layer and checked the soap frequently to make sure it wasn't overheating. Once I saw that it had gelled completely to the edges, I removed the towel and the lid of the mold.

Cutting the soap
A few days later, I cut the soaps. Another thing about goat's milk soap is that it can sometimes smell a bit like ammonia for the first few days, especially if soaping temperatures are too warm. I really didn't notice too much of an ammonia smell. Maybe slightly funky, but nothing significant. When the ammonia smell does occur, it usually cures out within a few days.

The soaps are pretty dark, partly because they gelled and partly because of the fragrance oil, which discolors brown, and the honey.

I can't wait to try this one out! I think this soap will be extra nice with the added honey and oats. And the Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey fragrance is one of my favorites - slightly sweet, warm, and toasty. I still have to wait several weeks for the soap to cure before I can use it. Waiting is the hardest part of soapmaking!

I'm excited to make my own goat's milk soaps since all of the ones I've ever tried have been a real treat. The lather is always so soft, bubbly, and creamy, and it feels great on the skin. One of my favorites was a bar I picked up at a farmer's market that was made with goat's milk AND beer. Talk about great lather! I will definitely have to try that someday in my own soap kitchen.

Are you a fan of goat's milk soaps? Do you have a favorite goat's milk soap that you enjoy making or using? What is your favorite thing about goat's milk soaps? Any interesting stories or mishaps?

Tell me all the goaty details!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Honey Soap for My Honey

I used to think that my husband, Ken, wasn't too particular about his soap. I know that he likes the soap I make - he cast away his favorite shower gel in favor of my soap. He even bought a special plastic box so he can carry a bar around in his gym bag.

But usually when it comes time for him to select a new bar of soap, he doesn't seem too concerned about what the bar looks or smells like. He'll say, "I need some more soap for my gym bag." And I'll ask, "Which kind do you want?" And he'll answer, "I don't care, as long as it smells manly."

And I'll go into the soap room, come back with a few paper bags of manly-smelling soap, and prepare to tell him all about his choice of scents and the aesthetic qualities of each bar. After I present the first bar, he'll usually say, "Okay, I'll take that one." And I'll say, "Don't you want to see the rest?" To which he replies, "No, I like this one."

Maybe he loves all of my soaps so much that he knows that no matter which bar he ends up with, it will be extraordinary. Last time, he got the last bar of my honey soap.

And so a couple of weeks ago, I was surprised when our new-soap-for-the-gym-bag conversation went like this:

"I need some more soap for my gym bag."

"Which kind do you want?"

"I'll take another bar of the honey soap."

"That was the last bar. I don't have any more."

He turned to me with this worried look on his face and said, "What? You're going to make more, aren't you?"

My heart melted, I tells ya.

Slab mold lined with bubble wrap
So I told him, yes, I would make more honey soap. I was planning to make more anyway because I love it, too. And I decided I would make it sooner rather than later so my sweet hubby can have some for his gym bag.

The first thing I did for my honey soap was cut some bubble wrap to fit the bottom of my slab mold. Then I placed it textured-side up in my mold. (By the way, I love that my acrylic slab mold from Soap Making Resource doesn't have to be lined. Yippee!)

Next, I got my oils ready. For this batch, I used olive oil, coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, and shea butter. Once my oils were cool, I mixed in my fragrance oil, Honey (L'Occitane Type) by Elements Bath and Body. This fragrance is super-yummy and strong - I used it at .5oz./per pound of oils and that was plenty for me. There are a few fragrance oils that I want to drink, and this is certainly one of them.

Honey dissolved in warm water
You know how honey can be pretty sticky and viscous, and how it can leave streaks in your soap? Well, here's a little trick to working with honey: Dissolve it in a bit of warm water before adding it to your soap. I used 2 teaspoons of honey in this batch (which was made with 2 pounds of oils). After I measured out my distilled water, I pulled 1 tablespoon from my total water, placed it in a heat-safe bowl, and then warmed it briefly (very briefly, like for 8 seconds) in the microwave. Then I added my honey to the warm water and whisked it. I added my honey water to my cooled oils, gave it a buzz with the stick blender, and then added my lye solution.

Pouring soap (l); soap in the mold with dividers (r)
Because the sugars in honey can cause the soap to overheat, I kept my temperatures right around 100 degrees. Once I reached trace, I poured my soap into my bubble-wrap lined mold and put the dividers in.

I lightly insulated with a single towel layer and checked my soap often to make sure it wasn't overheating.

A few days later, I unmolded the soap. The bubble wrap pulled right away, leaving me with a cool honeycomb effect on the tops.

Now my honey just needs to wait a few weeks for the soap to cure and then he can have more honey soap for his gym bag! (I'm going to steal a few bars for myself, too. Shhh, don't tell him.)

So, tell me, my soapy friends, do you love honey in your soap, or do you looooooooooooove honey in your soap?