A Record of My Soap Making Journey (so far)

I got a book on cold process soap making called All Natural Handmade Soap back in 2011. It's a Taiwan Traditional Chinese translation of a Japanese soap making book by Kyoko Maeda, published in 2001. The book sit on the bookshelf, collecting dusts for 3 years until one day in November, I really felt the urge to try a batch of cold process soap to rescue my problematic, dry and itchy skin. 

 First Soap Making Attempt

First Soap Making Attempt

My first batch of Maeda's Marseille Soap recipe, made with olive, coconut and palm oil, on Nov. 13, 2014 would have been a failure because it refused to trace after 10 hours. I measured every ingredient carefully and followed the instructions so meticulously. I hand whisked the mix every 2 hours, hoping that some magic power would thicken the liquid in the next minute, but was ended with disappointment every time! What went wrong?! Did I missing an important piece of information hidden somewhere in the book? Anyways, it was 8am in the morning already, I had no time to clean the mess, so I simply poured the cream soup like liquid into the milk carton that I prepared the night before, and off to work with the book stuffed in my purse. In the subway, I reread the instructions, character by character, and finally realized that I misunderstood a phrase which supposedly meant to "pour into the mold" and thought it meant "Unmold". In the text, there is a table explicitly telling readers that it takes about 12 to 24 hours for the Marseille Soap to reach to the trace stage. How stupid I was! 

 White: Marseille Soap; Brown: Coffee Coconut Soap with Marseille Soap cubes

White: Marseille Soap; Brown: Coffee Coconut Soap with Marseille Soap cubes

Being as stubborn as my mom, on Nov. 14, 2014, I made another attempt. The same Maeda's Marseille Soap recipe, except that I hand whisked only for the first 40 minutes after the oils and lye water mixed together. 12 hours later, again, 8am in the next morning, I approached to my batch with anticipation... Yay! The mix traced! I poured the pudding like mix into another milk carton, insulted it with cotton batting leftovers, and off to work with satisfaction...

Back to the first batch, actually, it did turned into soap, and part of the mix even went through the gel stage. Don't ask me why; there must be some chemistry behind. My first batch of handmade cold process gave me a bittersweet feeling, and taught me a lesson: READ CAREFULLY. 

For unmolding, I made another mistake - unmolding too early! The book explicitly states that It takes one day to harden the mix, and it's better to wait at least another day before unmolding and cutting. Well, being as impatient as my dad, I did unmolding and cutting all within one day. 

On Dec. 6, I had my Professional Practice Exam. After the exam, I headed to Kitchen Stuff Plus and got a blender - I had several recipes in mind and a blender would speed up the process. 

 Coconut Soap with Coffee (left) and Avocado Soap with Cow's Milk (right), both unscented

Coconut Soap with Coffee (left) and Avocado Soap with Cow's Milk (right), both unscented

In the evening, I tried my own recipe - Avocado Soap with Cow's Milk:

39% Extra Virgin Olive
25% Extra Virgin Avocado
18% Coconut
18% Palm
10% lye discount
For 650g oils, I used 150g of distilled water to dissolve the lye, and 100g milk added to the mix after thin trace occurred. 

With a blender, it only took about 15 minutes to trace! What a super time saver!

One thing that is much to my disappointment is the colour. The lovely olive green colour withered and turned to a brownish yellow green in just a few days!

On Dec. 7 (the next day), I made coconut soap with coffee water and ground coffee:

49% extra virgin coconut oil
33% olive
18% palm
5% lye discount
For 1020g oils, I used 420g coffee water, and added in a big spoon of ground coffee after thin trace. Since the batch looked unacceptably dark, I threw in some Marseille soap cubes before moulding to create some visual interest. By the way, the composition seems odd simply because I accidentally poured in 20g more olive oil into the mix.

Caution: the lye solution with coffee water smelled absolutely horrible. But the soap has great cleansing power and now I use it for washing dishes. It's fantastic! Next time, I think I would increase the portion of palm oil to have the lather more stable. 

 Maeda's Most Luxurious Soap with Sweet Orange & Rose Geranium EO

Maeda's Most Luxurious Soap with Sweet Orange & Rose Geranium EO

On Dec. 20, I tried Maeda's Most Luxurious Soap, made with olive, palm, coconut, sweet almond and jojoba oils. Unfortunately I ran out of sweet almond oil and had to put in a few grams of walnut oil to make up the composition. I also did a 10% lye discount instead of 15%, and used less water (2.75 times the amount of lye instead of 3.3). The finished soap bars are very soft... I hope it  will become harder once the excess water is all evaporated. For this batch, I tried rose geranium plus sweat orange essential oil. Well, I can attest to the claim that the orange EO is no lasting in soaps. In just a few days, I think the fragrances is gone by about 30%. Too bad, I did not learn this earlier. 

 Castle Soap (unscented)

Castle Soap (unscented)

Also on Dec. 20, I made a small batch of Castile Soap (pure + pomace olive oil) for my friend's new born boy. My cotton batting insulation is just too good. The soap went through a nice gel stage... but, without coconut and palm oils as the Marseille Soap does, I think the soap bars are too spongy and soft. 

So, on Dec. 24, I made another batch of Castile Soap (extra virgin + pomace olive oil), with a cake mould! I made the mistake of using sweet orange + rose geranium EO again (they smelled so good in lotion bars). Anyways, I purposely made it less insulated so no gelling would occur. By the way, the colour of EV + pomace olive is very nice. I really hope it will not turn brown later. 

 Castle Soap with Sweet Orange & Rose Geranium EO

Castle Soap with Sweet Orange & Rose Geranium EO

Also on Dec. 24, I made the most ugly bath of soap with:

45% Alkanet root powder infused olive + lavender infused EV olive
25% Rice bran
15% Coconut
15% Palm
5% Caster
10% Lye discount
2.6 Water factor
lavender EO

Ok, I expected purple but it gave me a greyish green (too intimidated to upload a picture)! My hubby called it the mud soap! I Googled and surprisingly found indeed many people got green instead purple. So what went wrong? I am still trying to figure out. 

It's Christmas. I gave some of my handmade soaps to my friends to try out. I hope they like them. 

 Top: Marseille; Middle: Avocado; Bottom: Coffee Coconut

Top: Marseille; Middle: Avocado; Bottom: Coffee Coconut

There is a Whole Foods Market opened at Yonge and Sheppard. Today, I visited the store for the first time in my life. Wow, they carry so many types of oils! I grabbed a small bottle of organic red palm to try out for my next batch of soap, and some organic rolled oat to make batch of honey oat soap in the near future.