Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Daley's Irish Cream soap

I have this little notebook that I have been writing down everything I have done in soap making. It is a little Wallace and Gromit notebook that I bought in Austin TX ten years ago. Since then it has been through everything with me; my kids have colored on it, and I think there might even be a y2k disaster checklist! I have finally filled every page of the darned thing and thought about getting another and transcribing everything down in a neat and organized manner. Pft! Who was I kidding? I don't have an organized bone in my body, so I thought I would just fling it out into the Internet and let someone else sort it out.

Of course my first soapmaking book was Susan Miller Cavitch's -The soapmaking companion. It has ruined me ever since. It was so thorough and contained an answer to every question I had and the answers to all the ones I hadn't thought to ask. Now I wish there was a child-rearing companion, or a doing-your-taxes companion! From this book I gleaned all the basics, but that didn't stop me from making heinous errors. I suffered through cleaning shoe boxes of poisonous goop, and a trip with my daughter to the emergency room after she sampled the "sugar" she thought I was making cookies with. Try explaining soapmaking to the department of child and family services in the ER! Despite all of these "learning experiences" I was still determined to get this right. I was too fascinated by the was like magic. Add some poison, cooking fat, stir in cauldron-and POOF! Soap! Ok, so I do not include all those preliminary disasters, but my notebook starts where I had decided that this had crossed the border from infatuation to obsession. I wasn't sure how I was going to afford this new hobby yet, but I was determined that at the very least every one I knew was going to have to rub their wet naked selves with a bar of my soap!

I was in the Whole Foods and I was sniffing their scents. Tifferet had this really great one-Irish Morning Mist. It was green and delightful. I still have the bottle somewhere, just so I can smell it for inspiration. It was an astronomical price for this teeny little bottle. I learned one of the best lessons about fragrance: shop in bulk over the Internet. From that scent I was inspired to make what is still one of my favorite soaps- Daley's Irish Cream. I named this green smelling soap for my Irish grandmother. I never did meet her, but she held so much influence on me it was the least I could do.

If you have your own soap recipe you could use it instead of mine. Mine was created based upon necessity. I generally had to use ingredients that you could acquire easily (IE the grocery store) and thus I have used this basic recipe. If you want to know the truth, I think that all hand crafted soap is nice on your skin as long as it is super fatted. Yes, some thing will make it a bit fluffier or a bit more moisturizing, but as long as you have a 3% or more superfat (extra fat left in the soap on purpose that will stay upon your skin after it has been cleansed) it will always be better than a commercial soap made of tallow and detergents.

So Here's the recipe:

3oz Olive oil

2oz Coconut oil

4oz Shortening or soybean oil

2.5oz water

1.25 oz Lye

Puff of raw silk

.5oz (or 2 TB) heavy cream

1tsp fresh cut grass fragrance oil

1tsp heather fragrance oil

Let's break down the ingredients a bit. First you might notice the size of the batch. I don't ordinarily make batches this small, but sometimes I do. All my recipes start out small, and I enlarge them for my needs at the time. This way I can make a test batch easily, or just enough xmas soap so that I am not stuck selling it all at a huge discount to get rid of it by Valentine's day. If I have a huge order, I just double , triple, or quadruple the recipe. Some soapmakers advise against this, but I have never had a problem. All this stuff that is in my notebook, is stuff I have tried over and over again.

Olive oil: I use Pomace Olive oil that I get from my neighborhood fruit market. I don't always use pomace olive oil. I sometimes us other grades of olive oil depending upon the color i want to achieve. If I need a really white soap, I use the lightest olive I can find. If I want a greener soap, I use the darkest i can find. As long as you are using a stick blender you shouldn't notice a big difference in tracing times (trace is the point at which you know the soap has started it's chemical alchemy and is ready to pour into the molds. It looks like custard).

Coconut oil: All soap has a lathering oil, and coconut is the most common. I think it smells "cleaner "than palm, and there are some issues about palm being misused or overused, but don't quote me on that.

Shortening or Soybean oil: I like the white fluffiness of shortening. It looks rich and white just ready to be turned into a hard bar. BUT- most shortening is made with cottonseed oil that is a by-product of the cotton industry. This means it had a lot of pesticides sprayed on it. I think soybean oil is better and will give you roughly the same result. Heck, if you find hydrogenated soy shortening at your store, use that.

H2O: I know that many have said that you should use distilled water/rain water/filtered water. The truth is that I just use plain old tap water. I have heard this is supposed to give you a great deal of ash (white powder stuck to the top of your soap) but I honestly have not had this be a big issue. If I have ash on my soap, I take it off with a potato peeler or I have a soap planer (looks like a wood planer, but you run your soap over it and it takes off a fine layer) which is great for taking off imperfections. If your worried about your well water, etc try a small batch and see what happens.

LYE: OK, here comes the big lye lecture about safety. I promise we won't have to do this again, because I will have said it once and that should be enough. Lye is a hazardous chemical. There is no soap without lye. You can use melt and pour soap-but even that has been previously manufactured with lye in it. I only buy lye in the small cans you can get from the hardware store. I know you can get it in larger quantities, but this way it is in a discreet container in a high cabinet that is marked with poison all over it. I have found that lye in large containers is harder to store safely away from animals and children. Lye is a VERY strong base and therefore should not be washed off with water should you have a spill- that will make it burn hotter. I have an empty jar of pickle juice in the fridge for such catastrophes. Salt or vinegar will take out the burn. When my daughter got some on her tongue, I gave her ice cream to counteract the burn. You should call poison control for instructions if you have an incident. I know that you know that we should be making soap with full lab gear on, but half of us are doing it in our nightgowns while the kids are off to bed. Be careful!

Silk: So I read up about the silk industry and the manufacture of silk. It is really cruel for these beautiful creatures to be boiled out of their cocoons for our desires. But, I have this little bit of raw silk that was given to me freely as a sample. I promise only to add silk to my soap until the little tuft is gone.

Cream: Ordinary whipping/heavy cream from the store. I store mine for future use in an ice cube tray in the freezer. The colder the cream is, the less likely it is to be burnt by the lye. Burnt cream is not harmful in soap, but takes on a caramel color.

Fragrance: Not much to say here. This combo has a nice green scent that is demasculized by the cream in the soap. There are many sites on the web to get quality fragrances from. These two should not be hard to find. If you want to have your soap look creamy, make sure to ask if the scents tend to discolor in soap making.

Technique: So I am going to tell you how I make soap. There are lots of rules to follow, and I am in general a rule breaker. I will be as honest as possible, but I will never tell you to do anything that I do not do myself. So know, I am living dangerously too!

First: Set up your materials. You will need a glass measuring cup or a thick glass jar that will pour easily without spilling. I have a couple of plastic containers that I have set aside for measuring. They are some old plastic ware that I am not worrying about damaging. This is key, as you make soap often enough the oils will degrade the plastic, the lye may scar glass etc. Set out your oils, put out a couple of spoons. Put your stick blender in a handy place (I like to keep my ISOCAN mug next to it so i have something to put it in so it won't roll) and have your molds set out and ready.

Next: Let's measure. I use a food scale....Yes, you heard me right, I said food scale. I do not use a $50 scale that measures to the 100th of an ounce. I have found that using a food scale that goes to 1/4 or 1/2 ounce suffices just fine. I make an effort to keep my recipe as near as possible to easy to measure numbers. The first things I measure is the Lye. It is a good idea to wear gloves here. I don't always because I am well practiced at not touching anything and a little stupid. This goes into a plastic container for measurement (glass is a little heavy for my food scale) and then into my large glass peanut butter jar. I add the little tuft of raw silk. Now comes the water. I pour some from the tap into another plastic container, Then I take these out to my back porch. Walk steady now! I set my lye-in-glass and water-in-plastic on the dryer and go back in the house for a heavy duty plastic spoon (not a lightweight spork, not a wooden spoon nor a metal one or they will melt/degrade into your soap) . When I come back out I put my shirt over my face, hold my breath and gently pour the water into the lye. Do not do this the other way around as it may splash. I stir for as long as i can hold my breath, and then run back inside. The fumes from the reaction will burn your lungs and make you sick, thus the stirring outside. Now that the Lye is heating up we will start to measure the oils. My favorite measuring container for the oils is an old sherbet container. It is lightweight, flexible, and they come in small or huge sizes. First I put out the solid oils, like coconut oil and/or shortening and melt these in the microwave. 30seconds at a time stirring in between until melted. Once these are liquid, I then add in the liquid oils. This helps to rapidly cool down the oil. Measuring is complete for now.

Also: Let's check back on the lye. I stir it around a bit to make sure the lye is dissolved and bring it back into the house. When it is a small batch it doesn't take too long to cool, but in larger batches I sometimes place it in the freezer to cool it down. Once the mixtures seem about body temp it is time for mixing. I add the fragrance oils to the other oils and give them a once over with the stick blender. I learned more than a few times that soap can surprise you. Sometimes I haven't had the chance to put the oils in, or once I have it can seize up quickly. At least if it traces up on me quickly, it will be well distributed within the soap. After blending in the fragrance I slowly add the lye. I give it a stir a couple times with the spoon to test it out and distribute it well within the mixture. This is a good time to add the the cream. Sometimes if it goes fast I don't use the blender at all, but usually I stick blend it until I have a soft-set pudding stage. (there are a ton of videos on u-tube that will visually show you better how a trace looks than I could ever describe)

Finally: Pour it in the mold quick! Once you get the trace it is a good idea to get it into the mold asap. I used these cooly celtic molds from Milkway. I have had them so long they are starting to yellow and fall apart! Now I place the molds into my gas oven for the cure. My gas oven has a pilot light and stays pretty warm all the time .This helps the soap go through a nice gel stage ( if you have an electric stove sometimes the light is warm enough or I have used an electric blanket- but turn it off right after you egta good gel)and after 18 hours it Ph tests to a nice 7. Now I don't think ph strips are necessary, but since they were only 75c (at American science and surplus) they are handy to have around in case something didn't come out right. After the 18 hrs I put them in the freezer for a little while to pop them out of the molds. I have never noticed a difference in the soap as to weather it has been in the freezer or not, but it will hold the detail of the mold better. I put them in my pantry on a paper bag and let them harden/dry up. Rotate them every couple of days if they need it.

So that's it! That is my first recipe of many soaps. Can you believe I have over 120 scents/recipes in that little darned book? That doesn't even touch on all the lotions and other insanities in there. Until next time...


  1. I can't believe you finally filled that book up, nor that you are bestowing all of your Top Secret Soap Recipe bible contents with the world at large. I am waiting with baited breath for the next installation...xoxo

  2. Awwww! Thanks honey! xoxo right back atcha!