And now for something completely different
Namely, handmade soap!
I made this from scratch last night. I've been meaning to make cold-process soap for over a year, and just now worked up the nerve to actually do it. So, here it is! I made it from a recipe in my soap book (which I got at Barnes&Noble on sale last year, starting my interest in soap), and it's made with a ton of olive oil, bits of coconut and palm oils, and beeswax.
It was pretty easy to do, as these things go. Basically, you measure out water and stir in lye, then melt and heat the oils and beeswax, and then, when the lye and oils are at the same temperature (specified in this particular recipe at 150F), pour the lye into the oils and stir, stir, stir.
Well, I got paranoid about the lye fumes and set the lye jar outside. (I was stupid and didn't have a face mask or eye protection! Bad Dove!) Of course, it's mid-October in Chicago, so the jar cooled too quickly, and by the time my oils were heated, the lye was too cold, so I spent the next TWO HOURS trying to warm up the lye by pouring boiling water (212F, remember) into a waterbath in which the lye sat. The lye REFUSED to heat above 130F, so I let the oils (which I kept having to heat and cool, also) cool to 130, and then mixed. I poured the lye into the oils rather quickly, so everything reacted quickly, but rather than seizing, I got a nicely mixed, buttercream-colored soap! I scooped it into my mold (the weighing dish from my digital scale) and let it set overnight. This morning, I unmolded it without mishap (no separation, no sludge, just creamy, pretty soap!) and cut it into 8 bars.
I'm planning on hand-milling it in two weeks, and using the shavings to make different soaps, so I did not add any essential oils or anything here, so I can't say it smells great -- it just smells like soap.
Among the possibilities for the types of soap I'll make out of this are:
-Spicy shaving soap for my husband, my dad, and my brother (combined into a Christmas present with a mug, new shaving brush, and a nice razor)
-Coffee-scented soap and chocolate-scented soaps for a couple of girlfriends
-Cornmeal-containing peppermint scrubby soaps
-Lavender and/or rosemary soaps
I know, I'm very ambitious for a batch this small (30 ounces), but, of course, I can always make more soap.