Monday, April 6, 2015

Aleppo Soap - Laurel Soap

Aleppo Soap refers to savon d'Alep, or laurel soap, or Syrian soap. It was said to be originated from Southwest Asia Levant region (around Lebanon, Israel, Syria, etc.) then moved into Europe. It was usually done by hot processing 100% olive oil then infused with laurel berry oil at the end before molding into it's final shape.  Aleppo soap needs a long curing time, from 6 month to a year, like aging a good red wine, the older the better.  It usually starts with natural green color and aged into more rustic olive khaki shade.  The percentage of laurel berry oil used in the soap can range from 2-30%.  Obviously the more laurel berry oil content the more expensive the soap would be.  Laurel berry oil is not easy to source here in the US.  I've only got a small jar from one of my soaping friends.  I decided to make my version of Aleppo soap (cold process) using 20% of laurel berry oil and 80% herbal infused olive oil.
 I was afraid I would end up with dull khaki green so I decided to add a pinch of nettle leaf powder and chlorella to help the green color along.
Here are some interesting observations I got from making my very first Aleppo soap.  The first impression of laurel berry oil is that it smells a little like rotting herb, or dirt mixed with garden herb.  I wouldn't say it's a pleasant smell but it does not stink as much as carrot seed oil or neem oil thank goodness!  The smell is so strong it really troubled me on what to add to "compliment" or deter the original scent.  I finally added a little bit of sage and sandalwood fragrance into the batter hoping the rotting herb scent would mellow out a bit.  The 2nd impression is that it sure is a very thick oil, almost like a mixture of paste in oil.  What surprised me the most is when I poured in the lye solution and started stick blending the mixture.  Usually high olive oil recipe takes much longer to reach trace (emulsification between lye & oil).  But this one went kind of fast, within a minute (or less) the mixture is emulsified and started to turn a little gelatin like, shinny and appeared slightly translucent.  I had to hurry and pour into the mold.  I swear I was doing it as fast as a soaper can be but it still solidified faster than I expected, during the pour!  And I was only making 4 cubes!!!  At the end I had to use a spoon to pulp and push it into all corners of the mold trying to avoid any air pocket forming.
 After only a few days of curing I got impatient and took the scrap from the soap pot to do a test run under my kitchen faucet.  I can't say I'm not disappointed that it did not lather much.  It does not feel slimy like most of the high content olive oil soap, it feels very astringent, no wonder this kind of soap usually need to be cure for 6 months to a year.  I will have to stash these away, at somewhere I don't usually visit, or curiosity will kill this cat fast, I won't be able to keep my hands off these cubes!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I Roll Roll Roll the Soap!

This is for a soap challenge I got myself into.  The mission is to incorporate 3 ingredients into our soap plus one assigned tool to create the look.  In this specific challenge we had to use egg, milk and sugar in making our soap.  That's not hard at all, I've used all 3 so many different times.  The hard part is the tool I was assigned to create my look.  I got a rolling pin...  This is the soap I created with all the circumstances:

I had 7 days to complete my look.  I don't know why on earth I had to make it so complicated.  This took me 9 days! I didn't make my deadline… sigh.
This was a 3 stage process.  The first pour was to make 3 different color soap.  Then I take them out to roll with THE assigned rolling pin when they are only 24 hours fresh.

I had to use lots of saran wrap to prevent fresh soap from sticking to my wooden rolling pin.  A lot of people thought I made the soap roll with melt & pour soap.  But I think fresh cold process soap is actually easier to manipulate, I can mold it to anything I like until I'm satisfied with it.  and yes, I got a little OCD, took me the whole night to roll out 3 identical sheets of soap...
Stage 2 is to insert this rolled soap into a vertical column mold then pour the second batch of soap.
Final stage is to take the soap roll out when it's hard enough (the next day) and whip up a small batch to drizzle on top then sprinkle some sugar pearl together with glitter.
My hard work paid off!  These are literally hand cut, with a kitchen knife because of its round shape and all that random drizzle.  You should see the last piece, so slanted, LOL
They are so totally adorable!  But, I swear, I will never ever do this again!  Forget it!  This really pushed my patience to the tipping point.  Remember my Rainbow Cake Soap from last year?  I don't know which one is worse.  If you wonder what rainbow soap I was talking about see this post: Rainbow Cake Soap Fun

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Cake Soap in a Roll

I don't make cake and cupcake soap as often, probably only by request or during holiday season when people are looking for one of a kind gifting ideas.  Cake or cupcake soap although looking very pretty and eye catching, they are somehow impractical to use as soap.  I love making cake soap only because it can inspire my inner most creativity. This past holiday season I decided to try some new pipping techniques.  Have you heard of scallop technique?  Check out this easy tutorial: Simple Scalloped Birthday Cake 
I didn't want to follow the traditional scallop pipping which usually is horizontal lay out, I decided to use if as drapery, vertically.
And to give the typical scallop pipping technique a twist, I used Wilton's open star pipping tip:
Then smear with a tiny spoon from center up to create that scallop edged dimple then embed a sugar pearl inside.
This second one is not as inventive, but surely as time consuming to make.  The overflow dripping "cream" is the hardest to create for me, I just don't seem to be able to time the right soap consistency.
This 3rd one is my own spontaneous try.  I was hoping to get a ribbon icicle or tassel look:
I used Wilton ribbon tip like this one:
My husband's favorite is when I pipe poppy flowers:
Maybe I will do a short video clip to show how I do them later so be on the watch out if you are interested!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Location Location Location

Last holiday season I signed up for the biggest craft show I've ever been to.  I don't sell in craft shows often, at most maybe one during the holiday season, most of the time I just list my products on Etsy.  First time doing big craft show (over 200 vendors) was nerve racking.  I had no idea how much product to bring and what price point to set in order to off set the costs.  In talking to my family about this my sister in law brain stormed a few ideas with me.  This was one of them, to make soap related to location.

I live in San Francisco Bay area, California, one of the most interesting and diverse cities in the world, not only in geography but also in culture. Speaking of San Francisco one cannot forget to mention the first gay neighborhoods in the United States, it's commonly called The Castro district. It has been one of the most lively and prominent symbols of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. You would know you just enter the zone the minute you see rainbow flags everywhere.  And that, is my inspiration for my I love SF soap.

Making this soap is not as easy as I thought.  There's a lot of waste of soap as I use a cookie cutter shaped like a map of USA to cut off a larger piece of pre-made soap.  I then hand carved out each heart or star shape approximately over where SF is on the USA map, spray some water and embedded the pre-made tiny heart or star soap into the void.  Till today I still have 1/2 of the left over scraps.  I will need to find a way to use them up.  But I have to say, they are so cute!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Using Texture Mat for Soap Pattern

 Have I mentioned before that making cold process soap is very much like baking and decorating the bakery?  You will be shocked how many soap makers shop at baking goods for tools we can use!
This is about using fondant texture mat to make soap.  There are 2 kinds on the market, plastic sheets which are much cheaper, and the more durable silicone mats but cost far more.  Plastic sheets tend to have simpler patterns while silicone mats can be as intricate as you can ever imagine.  However, the common problem we run into is that it's hard to find fondant sheet big enough for our molds, they are not designed for soap makers for sure!
About 2 years ago I was lucky to saw this listing of a clear plastic texture sheet that has very nice wood grain pattern and the size is bigger than any I've seen out there.  I bought one to try, but that batch of soap failed.  I learned a lot from that experiment.  These grooves are shallow, only about 1/16" deep at most.  To cast a great impression the soap batter needs to be very fluid at pour but harden fast to get a perfect release.  I admit I didn't have the patience to think about all these little details 2 years ago so I simply gave up after one failed try.
Making texture mat soap is somewhat different.  It requires forehand preparation.  Measure twice (sometimes 3 times) and cut once to fit the interior of the mold.  In my case I used a silicone log (loaf) type mold and lined the mold with this plastic texture sheet on 3 sides to form an "U" shape.  Simple clear tape was used to secure the sheets temporary to the mold.  Then all I need is some simple 2 color ITP (in the pot) swirl and pour into the mold.

I really like these simply elegant looking soap bars!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Where Is My Glycerin River?!

What is glycerin river?  In most cases it happens when you use water dispersible titanium dioxide to color your soap batter white and then the soap gelled.  Can't imagine it?  Here's a picture to show you:
Most of us trying very hard to avoid it.  One of the trick is not to gel the soap.  Another trick is not to use water dispersible titanium dioxide, instead, use oil dispersible version.  If you don't like these 2 options, heavily discount your water when you make lye solution would work too.
But, what if I want glycerin river?!  Should be easy, right?!  Not in this case!
I had this grant design idea to mimic the cracking of Arctic ice like this picture:
I soaped normally, didn't discount water, added descent amount of water dispersible titanium dioxide, even put it in the preheated oven to force gel.  So, where is my glycerin river when I intentionally tried to make it?!

The only difference is I also used transparent melt and pour soap to swirl the bottom blue portion for water effect.  Could it be the melt & pour?  Melt & pour soap does contain lots of glycerin that why it tends to sweat in humid area.  Could that be the reason I'm not getting the glycerin river I wanted?!  There got to be a reasonable logic to this right?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Pumpkin Cheese Cake Soap

It's the end of summer, school has started, meaning time to plan fall soap projects!  Each year I would make pumpkin soap once, usually around this time.  I made a recipe just for this soap, the only recipe that uses pumpkin seed oil.  The virgin cold pressed pumpkin seed oil is rather smelly, not in a bad way, it's nutty and amber brown in color.  When I tried to put in my order for more virgin pumpkin seed oil I noticed the shortage in inventory.  The 2 suppliers I normally buy from had none this year.  The other suppliers who still carry it have priced it higher than what I would  like to pay for.  For  this soap I've used up the last bit I have left.
Previously I had been making pumpkin chai scented typical bar soap.  It's getting old and boring, time for me to revamp it this year.  While looking online for idea I found this photo on Pinterest, it's actually a real desert, a frozen yogurt cake:
 It is not in a typical cupcake form, rather simple and elegant!
If you are a soap maker you probably already know any pumpkin related fragrance contains a lot of vanillin (for smelling like vanilla) and that would cause soap to turn brown when exposed to the air, it's oxidation.  I picked a pumpkin fragrance that's more like sweet pumpkin filling without heavy spice and less vanillin.  How to work around the color is always the challenging part.  Anyway, to not bore you with details, I present you my version of pumpkin soap this year:
Pumpkin Cheese Cake Soap
It's a rather time consuming soap to make, a 3 days project!  Day 1, I had to make the cheese cake middle first, unmold it and cleaned it up to dry.  Day 2, made the brown crust, put the cake back into the mold on top of the crust.  Reason for this extra step is to cover the day one's ugly uneven soap top by placing it up side down into the mold to adhere with the brown crust.
Day 3, final dress up, this is the part it didn't go as planned. Day 2's brown crust did not adhere to the cheese cake part well, it left gaps.  I had to make extra soap batter, split it to make the brown crust again to patch up the gaps.  By the time I was ready or the cream topping the batter got too thick to drizzle... sigh.  Oh well, plan B is not unusually in my soaping kitchen.
Dusting it with pearl white mica is like cherry on top, make it have this powder sugar look, totally realistic!
The only problem is, days later the soap still turned brownish... sigh.  I just can run away from browns...