DIY Artisanal Soaps (Adams Media, 2016), by Alicia Grosso equips readers with everything they need to begin making their own beautiful soaps right at home. Grosso lists the main ingredients needed, plus recipes on how to personalize your soaps to be perfect for your home. In this excerpt, she gives her recipe for making a basic cold-process soap.
• 6 ounces water
• 2 1/4 ounces lye
• 10 ounces olive oil
• 6 ounces coconut oil
• 1 tablespoon castor oil
1. Put on all protective gear, including goggles, gloves, and long sleeves.
2. Place the water in a heatproof glass 4-cup measure. Sprinkle the lye slowly and carefully into the water. Stir until dissolved. Set the lye solution aside to cool.
3. Combine the olive oil, coconut oil, and castor oil in a second heatproof glass 4-cup measure. Melt in the microwave or over boiling water. Coconut oil has a low melting point, so it will melt quickly from an opaque white solid to a clear liquid. As each setup is different, be sure to watch your microwave or double boiler closely, and make note of how long it takes. (Do not overheat, as oils take longer to cool than the lye solution.) Set the oils aside to cool.
4. When both mixtures are at 110 degrees Fahrenheit, pour the lye solution in a thin stream into the oils. Stir constantly until the mixture traces, about 10–20 minutes. (If using an immersion blender, take care not to whip air into the mixture.)
5. When the soap batter traces, pour it into the mold, taking care to scrape all the traced soap out of the cup.
6. Cover the mold with plastic wrap, wrap the mold in a towel for warmth, and let it sit for 2 days.
7. Wearing your goggles and gloves, try unmolding the soap by pulling out the sides of the mold and turning the mold upside down on a brown paper bag or paper towel on the work surface. Push on the bottom of the mold. If the soap does not release readily, place the mold in the freezer for 1 hour. Try again to remove it. It should release easily this time.
8. Using a stainless steel knife, cut the soap log into bars. Place them on a brown paper bag to dry. Turn them daily to be sure they dry evenly.
9. In 4 weeks, your soap will be mild and quite firm and ready to use.
10. Store the soap in a ventilated container.
This is your first batch of cold-processed lye soap! Congratulations! When you take it to the tub or shower, observe the smell, texture, lather, and rinsability. Although every bath with your own soap is a learning experience, be sure to take time to enjoy what you’ve created!
Make sure to add your observations to your soapmaking journal. The more notes you take, the more your learning process will be reinforced. Be sure to write your notes right away so you don’t forget!
It is very likely that you’ll want to make more soap as soon as possible. Make more of the 1-pound batches from Chapter 4 to start out with. It is tempting to dive right in and go for larger batches, but resist that temptation. Try your mettle on a few smaller batches, then wallow in happiness when they’re all cured and ready to use.
When you are ready to make a larger batch, try one of the 4-pound recipes in Chapter 4. There are some procedural differences from the 1-pound methods, so try a plain, or at least very simple, batch before committing yourself to enough additives for a batch at the bigger size.
When you make a large batch of plain soap, you can use it as usual, of course. And what’s even more fun is that you can use it for the hand-milling recipes in the book. It is much easier and more economical to make your own soap shreds for hand milling than to buy them.
Cold-process soap is prized for its fine, solid texture. Although it takes four weeks for cold-process soap to cure from the pouring to the ready-to-use stage, it is well worth the wait. The firm bar will have a silky texture and lovely lather, and it will thoroughly and gently clean your skin.
The primary difference between small and larger batches is the amount of time it takes for the lye to cool. Many soapers make their lye solution in the morning, go about their day, then make soap later in the day. Cooling time is affected by the size and shape of your lye container and the relative heat of the day.
The more surface area your lye container has, the faster it will cool. It’s better to have an oversized pitcher than one that will be so deeply full that it will take ages to cool. Leaving the lid off the pitcher will help with cooling. You need to be patient and monitor how long it takes so you can plan for the future.
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