Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Gingersnap Swirl Soap

My Gingersnap soap
September is already almost gone, and the holidays will be here before we know it! I've been busy making some Christmas soaps for family and friends. (I hope everybody likes soap because that's what they're getting.)

It just isn't the holidays without gingerbread. Every Christmas, I insist on making ginger cookies for the family gathering and then eating almost all of them myself. I can't imagine Christmas without my ginger cookies. 

I also can't imagine Christmas without my Gingersnap soaps. Neither can my mom, who is especially fond of them. I always make sure I include them in my round-up of holiday soaps not only for her, but also because everyone seems to love gingerbread-type scents, particularly around Christmastime.

For my soap, I used Bramble Berry's Gingersnap fragrance oil. It has lots of nice spice notes, like caraway, cinnamon, and cardamom - I loooove cardamom! - with vanilla for some warmth and sweetness. It smells a lot like gingerbread to me. My nose sometimes has trouble picking up spicy fragrances (I can almost never detect pumpkin spice-type scents), but I can smell this one pretty well. My mom says that it is super-yummy, strong, and true-to-scent, so I defer to her nose's judgment. I guess my nose is just silly.

Last year's Gingersnap soap. Meh.

I admit that I am not super-thrilled with how this soap turned out. It was much prettier in my mind's eye. I think it is an improvement over last year's Gingersnap soap, though, and I hope next year's will be even better.

Last year, I attempted to dollop some gold soap on top to make swirly peaks. The peaks didn't quite work out, though, and the gold didn't really come through. (I still have the hardest time with texturized peaks. It seems like they should be easy to make, but I can never seem to do it.)

This year, I decided to use my slab mold and to swirl some gold soap on top of my bars. I think I held back too much soap for the swirling, though. I'm always afraid of not holding back enough, so I end up with too much. And I poured the gold soap in too-thick lines. I think a squeeze bottle would have been cleaner and given me much more control. And I think white would have been a better choice for the swirls - white would have provided greater contrast than gold.

But other than all of that, the soaps turned out fine!

Here is a video of me making my Gingersnap soap:

Next year, I may just make a loaf soap with a couple of gold or white mica pencil lines running through it. Or I could use cookie cut-outs to make little gingerbread men. Or I could make some embeds for my soap, although I usually shy away from embeds because of the extra work involved.

The vanilla in the fragrance oil discolors the soap, so I left my swirling soap unscented. It was neat to watch the soap change from a golden color to a dark brown over the next couple of weeks.

Gingersnap and gingerbread scents seem to be really popular around the holidays. (No doubt why - they're yummy!) How many of you are planning to make, buy, or hopefully receive gingerbread-type soaps and toiletries this holiday season?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hot Cocoa Swirl Soap

My Hot Cocoa soap
Autumn is almost here. Soon the mercilessly hot days of summer will turn cooler, and the outdoors will once again become a place that I actually want to go to. A crispness will float in the breeze, leaves will change color, and windows will be flung open.

I have always relished that first day after a long, oppressive summer when it is cool enough to open up the house. I can still remember one particular afternoon when I was about ten years old and doing my homework at the kitchen counter next to the open windows, feeling the cool October air on my skin. The wind chimes outside clinked in the breeze. The air felt different, charged. It even smelled different, sweet and slightly spicy. That day sticks with me because the sensations were so rich and intense. It was a perfect autumn day, and I never wanted it to end.

Those are the kind of days that make me want to cozy up under a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate. They signal that the holidays are coming soon with their pumpkin pies, gingerbread cookies, candy canes, and fresh-cut Christmas trees. Even the air carries a cold, clean, energizing scent.

Ah, autumn! I took this photo at Blue Ridge, GA in Oct. 2009
And these are the experiences that now inspire my soapmaking. Every August, I look forward to the end of summer and the beginning of the approaching season. And I start to think about the holidays and what kinds of soaps I want to make for gifts. I try to get going on the holidays by late summer so I have plenty of time to make all of my different soaps and allow them a nice, long cure.

Everyone in my family knows that they are getting a bunch of soap from me for Christmas. Each year, I have some perennial favorites - like Sweet Pumpkin, Gingersnap, and Peppermint - that I usually make. And I also try to work in a couple of new scents to keep things interesting for everyone. This year I'm planning to make a Fresh Snow soap.

And I just made a Hot Cocoa soap. After all, who doesn't love a steaming mug of hot cocoa with a dollop of whipped cream on a cold wintery night?

For the scent, I used Bramble Berry's Hot Cocoa fragrance oil. It smells just like the real thing! The whole house smelled like hot chocolate for days, which is not a bad thing at all.

Here is a video of the making of my Hot Cocoa soap:

This is also the first batch that I made using sodium lactate, which I added to the cooled lye solution at 1% (roughly 1 teaspoon per pound of oils). Sodium lactate is a liquid salt of lactic acid, and it helps harden soap so that it lasts longer. It also is a natural humectant.

To make the soap, I brought my batch to a thin trace and then separated out a little bit of soap into another container. (I poured off about a cup and a half from a batch made with two pounds of oils.) I colored this small portion of soap with titanium dioxide and left it unscented since the fragrance oil discolors dark brown. Then I whisked the fragrance oil into the rest of the soap. (I used .8 ounces of fragrance per pound of oils and the scent was plenty strong.) I didn't bother with coloring the scented portion since the fragrance oil naturally goes brown due to the vanilla.

My pink Hot Cocoa soap. Don't worry, it quickly goes brown!
Here's something interesting - when I whisked the fragrance oil into the soap, it began to darken immediately. I was expecting it to turn brown, but it turned a dusky pink instead! I was a bit worried at first, but by the next day the pink had given way to a caramel-brown color. The day after that, the soap was well on its way to a gorgeous chocolate brown.

I poured a bit of my white soap into my scented soap and gave it a quick stir to make an in-the-pot swirl. I should have made my swirl at a thinner trace, but I nearly plumb forgot to do the swirl at all! I managed the swirl even though my soap was at medium trace, and I ended up with pretty little wisps of white in the chocolate-colored portion.

I texturized the top of the scented layer and then spooned a layer of white on top of it. Then I created some texture on top of the white layer to mimic peaks of whipped cream. I topped the whole thing off with a sprinkling of cocoa powder.

I must say that I am very happy with how these soaps turned out! These will make lovely holiday gifts. (And I'll be making more holiday soaps over the next few weeks, too, so stay tuned.)

What types of soaps are you all making or buying for the holiday season? What scents do you like during autumn and winter?