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Lemon juice soap

One of the soap groups on Facebook that I belong to does monthly soap challenges and this month they challenged people to make a soap using lemon juice. I thought that was such a fun idea, and something I’d never done either, that I wanted to give it a try myself and show you the process and results, so you can have a go at it yourself.

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One of the problems with using acids, like lemon juice, is that it will neutralise some of the lye in your recipe. The acid in lemons is citric acid, but the amount of citric acid varies between types of lemons as well as between the individual fruits themselves. So unless you’re a chemist with the right equipment, you can’t really know how much of the lye will be neutralised. If it’s too much, you’ll end up with a soft gloopy mixture because of the excess oils that didn’t get saponified (turned to soap). To make sure that doesn’t happen, you need to reduce your superfat or lye discount to a minimum. I reduced my superfat to 2%, and if I replace all the water in the lye solution with lemon juice I will get a soap with a superfat somewhere between 5% and 8%. Here’s the recipe I used:

Lemon juice soap recipe

  • 375 g olive oil
  • 25 g castor oil
  • 55 g caustic soda
  • 100 g lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sodium lactate
  • 15 ml lemon essential oil
  • annatto seed colourant

I pressed out three lemons to get 100 g of juice and placed it in the fridge to cool. Lemons not only contain citric acid, but also sugar, and I wanted to prevent the sugars from burning in the lye.

Once the lemon juice was cold, I carefully stirred in the caustic soda one teaspoon at a time, and check out the cool colour display I got! First it turned a bright yellow before going orange. To be on the safe side, I placed the jug in the sink with cold water to keep the lye from going too hot, and luckily it didn’t get any darker than that orange.

I continued normally using the cold process method: oils in one pot, and once the lye had cooled down, adding the lye to the oils and stirring. Because I knew from other soapers that the lemon fragrance from the juice would not come through in the soap, I added lemon essential oil to the soap,

I also decided to have a little fun with colour using annatto seed colourant, which I added to about 1/4 of the soap mixture. I then poured the colours into a bowl, alternating between the yellow and uncoloured soap, like you do in the ‘in-the-pot-swirl’ method. I gave the soap in the pot an extra swirl with my spatula and then poured it into the mold.

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I had no idea what the lemon juice would do to the colour of the soap and to the soap itself. I didn’t insulate it and despite it being in a cavity mold, the soap did go through a gelling phase. So a word of caution: don’t insulate and keep the soap cool! And despite the soap looking rather dark here in the mold and the next day when I unmolded them, they did turn a lovely white and yellow marble effect after a couple of days. And testing it after nearly a week already felt that it was going to be really pleasant mild soap!

For more information and ideas, check out this blog post about adding fresh ingredients to soap!

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Soap cupcakes

Difficulty: Advanced
Time: 1 1/2 hrs
Yields: 6 cupcakes

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Soap cupcakes are probably my favourite kind of soaps to make. I love playing around with soap, and cupcakes has a lot of playing and creativity involved. There’s the icing to pipe in all kinds of different ways and colours. You can play around with the fragrances and designs of the cupcakes, including choosing a fun cupcake carton. But most of all, I love decorating the cupcakes. You can add glitter, little parasols or flags, or make your own decorations using soap dough.

Don’t be put off by the ‘advanced’ level, and even if you think your piping skills aren’t up to scratch (you should have seen my first attempts!), with a little glitter on top, I bet they’ll look fantastic!

If you have never made cold-process soap before, I strongly suggest you check out the basic cold process soap tutorial first.

Before starting, please read the safety and precautions post, especially since this tutorial requires the handling of caustic soda!

Preparation: Before starting, make sure you have all your equipment and material laid out and ready to use. Prepare your piping bag, putting in the tip or nozzle. And prepare your soap colourant according to the supplier’s instructions. Lay out the cupcakes cartons, setting out a couple extra in case you have surplus soap.

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ONE: To prepare the lye, first measure out the water in a heat proof Pyrex jug. Then, in a separate container (I use a little plastic cup for this), weigh out the caustic soda. Make sure you are wearing protective goggles and gloves. Carefully, add the caustic soda to the water (NEVER THE OTHER WAY ROUND!), and avoiding any splashes, stir until the lye water is clear. Set aside to cool.

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TWO: In a separate large Pyrex jug or pot, weigh out the coconut oil and cocoa butter. Either heat in the microwave (if using a Pyrex jug) or on the stove (if using a pot), until the oil and butter has completely melted.

The recipe uses a large percentage of hard oils and butters, to ensure that the soap will thicken enough to be able to pipe it as icing on top of the cupcakes. Because of the proportion of hard oils, you will also need to work fast, because the soap mixture will reach trace quicker than the usual recipes containing less hard oils.

THREE: Weigh out and add the olive oil, sunflower oil and castor oil to the now-liquid coconut oil and cocoa butter, and give it a quick stir.

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FOUR: Make sure you are still wearing your goggles and gloves. When the lye has cooled down to room temperature, carefully add it to the oils and then using a stick blender, pulse and stir until the oil/lye mixture has emulsified (does not separate).

FIVE: Add your fragrance or essential oil and give it another quick stir. Make sure the fragrance or essential oil that you are using do not accelerate the soaping process. You don’t want the soap to thicken and solidify in your piping bag! It’s happened to me a few times!

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SIX: Pour about half of the soap into a separate container or bowl. One will be the uncoloured icing on top, and the other will form the coloured bottom part of the cupcakes.

SEVEN: To one pot add your soap colourant, and mix, using a whisk or stick blender, until you have reached a thin-medium trace. If you leave it too thin, the soap won’t support the icing. If it is too thick, you won’t be able too pour it.

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EIGHT: Pour the coloured soap into the cupcake cartons, filling it to about 1/2 to 1 cm from the rim. Depending on the size of the cupcake cartons, you might have a bit more or less than 6 cupcakes.

NINE: Using your stick blender, mix the remaining uncoloured soap until it has thickened enough that you can pipe it. Scoop the soap into your piping bag, and then pipe the top of the cupcakes into nice swirls.

If you would like a white icing, you can add a 1/2 teaspoon of titanium dioxide mixed with a little oil to the soap before stick blending it to thick trace. You can find more hints on soap icing and how to pipe soap here.

TEN: You can sprinkle some glitter or add other decorations to your cupcakes, or leave them just as they are. I’m using silver Bio-glitter from Pure Nature. And the little pink soap balls I made with soap dough. You can find the tutorial for soap dough here.

Leave the soap cupcakes to cure for at least 6-8 weeks before using. Because they are cold process soap, you can leave them unwrapped.

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Soap cupcakes

  • Difficulty: advanced
  • Print
Before starting, make sure you wear protective goggles and gloves and work in a well-ventilated area, free from any distractions!

Ingredients

  • 200 g olive oil
  • 260 g coconut oil
  • 200 g sunflower oil
  • 100 g cocoa butter
  • 50g castor oil
  • 114g caustic soda (NaOH)
  • 230 ml water
  • 30 ml fragrance or essential oil
  • soap pigment or dye
  • optional: glitter and decorations
  • piping bag and tip
  • 6 cupcake cartons

Directions

Preparation: Set out all the equipment you need, including the piping bag and tip. Prepare the soap pigment or dye according to the supplier’s instructions.

  1. Measure out 230 ml of water into a heat proof Pyrex jug. Weigh out the caustic soda and carefully add it to the water, avoiding any splashes. Gently stir until all the caustic soda has dissolved and the lye water is clear. Set the lye aside to cool down.
  2. In a large heat proof Pyrex jug or pot, weigh out the coconut oil and cocoa butter. Heat in microwave (if Pyrex jug) or stove (if pot) until all the oil and butter has melted.
  3. Add the liquid oils to the melted coconut oil and cocoa butter, and give it all a quick stir.
  4. Once the lye has cooled down to room temperature, and making sure you are still wearing protective goggles and gloves, carefully add the lye to the oils.
  5. Using a stick blender, pulse and stir until the oil/lye mixture has emulsified.
  6. Add the fragrance and give it another quick pulse to mix in the fragrance. Avoid the soap mixture getting too thick at this point.
  7. Pour half of the soap into a separate bowl or container.
  8. To the remaining soap in the pot, add your colourant and whisk or stick blend to medium trace.
  9. Pour the coloured soap into your cupcake cartons, filling it to about 1/2 to 1 cm from the rim.
  10. Using your stick blender, mix the uncoloured soap until it is thick enough to pipe.
  11. Scoop the soap into the piping bag (make sure the tip is already inserted in the bag) and then pipe it in swirls on top of the cupcakes.
  12. Optional: sprinkle with glitter or add other decorations
  13. Leave the cupcakes to cure for about 6-8 weeks before using.

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Bring on 2018!

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New Zealand’s most beautiful beach – Hahei beach!

Hasn’t this been the most wonderful summer ever? The weather was absolutely incredible and for most of us it was the perfect summer. I think I read somewhere that it was the hottest January on record. We made the most of the sunshine and spent most of the sunny days outdoors doing something fun together.

Having my parents in law visiting from Switzerland kept us busy. We had a great time together and made some wonderful memories! We kayaked down the Puhoi River, went on the Mail Run (by boat) to Kawau Island, did a road trip around Coromandel, which has some of the best beaches in New Zealand, checked out the geothermal area in Rotorua, visited the bird sanctuary island Tiritiri Matangi, walked many, many miles through bush and on the beach, tasted some wines at my favourite winery (Coopers Creek), climbed like monkeys through the trees at Tree Adventures in Woodhill forest, cooked meals together and organised extended family BBQs and gatherings at every possible occasion. This summer was all about family and being together!

But the highlight of my summer was the privilege of cooking a hangi during our little road trip. Cooking has always been a passion for me, and I love being in the kitchen, because the kitchen represents a place of being creative and making people happy, be that with food, soap or by just being together and doing the dishes. I love trying out new things and recipes. So when I found a holiday park with its own hangi oven, I knew we had to go and stay there. Hangi, for those who aren’t familiar with the term, is a maori way of cooking with natural steam. The holiday park we stayed at is located in Rotorua, a region of active geothermal energy with plenty of mud pools, geysers and hot water springs. Placing your food in heke (NZ flax) baskets, the maori used to lower these baskets into the steam and let the steam do the cooking. Those still lucky to have a hot spring on their property will still cook this way. I felt really privileged and lucky to try this method of cooking and to me, that was the highlight of my whole summer! Btw the food is deliciously tender and juicy, and the corn was the best I ever tasted!

Did I mention I loved being in the kitchen? It wasn’t just us humans loving this weather, the harvest this summer has been so bountiful with fruit and vegetables and the past few weeks I’ve been busy canning, jamming, pickling, freezing, and dehydrating. I had a great little helper, who not only picked 7 kg of strawberries in record time, he also cut and dehydrated 5 kg of apricots for me, and he’s come up with some great chilli sauce recipes. I’m happy to share any recipes, just flick me a pm!

And it wasn’t just all about food for me this summer. I also had the privilege to teach a one-on-one session with Gama, visiting New Zealand all the way from Indonesia. He’s a fantastic soap maker and an incredible photographer, and I love seeing his images on Instagram!

Having had such a wonderful fun and busy summer, I feel fully re-charged and ready to bring some great new ideas to 2018. There will be new courses and venues, lots of tutorials, more techniques to learn, and online books and courses. Here’s a little sneak peak to what’s coming this year: