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...