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!


15 comments:

  1. I love goats milk soap, I have quite dry skin and it always feels let tight after using a soap with this in x

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    1. Thanks, Joanna! I love how goat's milk soap feels on the skin, too. It does add something special to the soap. I'm looking forward to trying mine!

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  2. your soaps look wonderful, very rich and smooth. nice job!

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    1. Thank you, Donna! I'm very happy with how these turned out. :)

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  3. those turned out great, Jenny...they look so wholesome! I'm a big fan of gm soap...love the way it feels on my skin!

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    1. Thank you, SDsoaper! I find myself wanting to go try a bar right now, but I must be patient and wait for the soap to cure. :)

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  4. Looks like your soaps turned out beautifully! I love oatmeal soap and the goat's milk and honey sounds like extra nice touches. (Of course, I love all of your soaps!)

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    1. Thanks, Mom! I think this will be a very nice batch and I can't wait to try it. I'll have to send some your way, too!

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  5. I made a goat's milk soap around the same time you did, but I put mine in the fridge. It came out great, but I wish I had let it harden a bit more before unmolding and cutting. It definitely had that cheesecake texture. Had I been a bit more patient and waited until it hardened up more, the cuts would have been cleaner. Love yours, though! I've never gelled my milk soaps for fear of them overheating. At what temp did you soap? My oils and lye water were both 95 degrees - which seemed to work pretty well!

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    1. Hi, and thank you for your comment! I was a little bit worried about overheating, too, so I soaped cool and kept an eye on the soap after I molded it. My oils were just under 100 degrees F and my lye around 94 degrees when I combined them. Combined, they were probably around 96 degrees. The soap started gelling fairly quickly in the mold, and I took the insulation away once the soap had gelled to the edges. This was my first time making a milk soap, and it went well. I'm glad your GM soap turned out well, too. I know what you mean about cutting soft soap. Your soap will still be lovely - enjoy!

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  6. This soap sounds so wonderful. I had all the ingredients ready to make a batch over the weekend but didn't get to it. Maybe this weekend :)

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    1. Thanks, Kim! I've been using a bar and it is very nice - the lather feels so creamy and nourishing. I hope you get to make a batch soon - you'll love it!

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  7. Thanks for posting this. I just made goat's milk soap using a recipe that did not mention cooling the milk except that you add to oils at 92 degrees. So you can imagine, I added the lye to the goat's milk, walked away to mix the oils and when I came back I had a stinky orange mess. I cooled the lye mix and oils to 92 degrees and mixed them. The smell dissipated slighted during saponification. I let the soap gel but this morning it still has a slight ammonia smell and I was ready to dump it when I read your post that said that smell will go away. I have my fingers crossed. Definitely worth waiting to see. This was a big batch and would be a very costly mistake if I have to dump it.

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    1. Hi, Bonnie, and thanks for your comments! I'm glad that you didn't dump your batch just yet. The ammonia smell will probably go away in a few days. I'd hang on to it and see how it is in a week or two. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you, too!

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