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.
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.
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!