What I found with my first try at Soap Making from scratch

To start with

Lye Soap is a misnomer.  The recipe for soap is Water plus Lye makes a liquid that is added to oil.  The chemical reaction is called Saponification.  Saponification converts the Oil (fat) to Soap.  No Lye should remain once the soap is cured.

Water + Lye + Fat = Soap. 

 

First off, no, I am not talking Melt and Pour.  That process is where you buy a big block of soap base, slice it down, melt it in a pot, add colors and scents, and pour into a mold.

May as well buy it at the store.

This is the actual “chemistry” side of things.  If you are good at Chemistry, Baking, Measuring precisely, you probably can do this.

Second, Lye.

There is always a warning about Lye, and a disclaimer.

By using this information, you acknowledge that your are voluntarily agreeing to not hold Ramblingmoose, and all people within free of any responsibilities and liabilities due to damage, injury, loss of bodily function or death.  This is to be interpreted in the broadest possible terms.

Wild huh?  Needs to be.  And it is by no means complete.  Both the disclaimer and these notes.  Do your research.

Lye, in the strengths you will be using, is a highly caustic chemical.  Lye can burn, and the fumes that result from the chemical reactions between Lye and Water, and the mixture of Lye and Water when added to oils and fats can be toxic.

When I mixed my Lye and Water, I used plastic containers, plastic utensils, and did it outdoors.  Some people say that you can do this indoors, I say no.  Mix your Lye by adding Lye to Water, and never the other way around.  Do so slowly and outdoors, even if you have a really great stove hood that is vented outside.  Use plastic or stainless steel to mix Lye.

Never Use Aluminum.

The chemical gasses that are given off are poisonous when you add Lye to Water.

All products are caustic until at least partial curing happens.  Keep White Vinegar nearby to neutralize anything then flush with a lot of water.

On the other hand, you probably can make this.   

Furthermore, Always use 100% Lye.  You can buy Food Grade Lye online for Soap Making and Baking.  Never use the drain cleaner from under the sink – it has probably aluminum in it and you don’t want.  You can use drain cleaner only if it is CLEARLY labeled 100% Lye.

Remember only use 100% Lye.  It comes in granules like grains of sand or flakes.  I found mine at an old school hardware store and it says that it is a drain cleaner.

Third – your choice of oils.

This started because we found a very large bottle of rather high grade olive oil.  It did not smell “off” but it was past the sell by date by a year and a half.

Being thrifty I remembered that Castile Soap was made from Olive Oil, Lye, and Water.

I began to look for videos on Youtube for them and frankly there are so many soap recipes there that I won’t bother including one.  A Three Ingredient Soap Recipe will make a great product.

Olive Oil, Lye, Water = Castile Soap.  You know, the stuff you pay five dollars minimum a bar at a posh market?  How does $.75 a bar sound?  Or less if you are using leftover oils like I am.

But I am writing this to remind myself in a couple months how I did this the first time and how to tweak things at that point.

And soaps cure at different speeds.  While pure Castile soap takes 4 to 6 MONTHS to fully cure, others take 4 to 6 WEEKS to cure.  I am expecting what I made this first time to be “weeks rather than months” and will check in six weeks by using it in the shower.

Then I went to the cupboard and discovered that I had some Cold Pressed Sesame Oil, and some Coconut Oil both of which were out of date.

I bought some Shea Nut Tree Oil for the project since I wanted a softer soap that would help with dry hands, and added that to my selection.

What I am getting at is that if it is a natural oil, it can probably be used to make soap.   Every single oil out there has their own chemical profile.  Some are silky soft like the Shea Butter and Shea Nut Oil.  Others build a firm soap to counteract the softer shea butter – like Coconut Oil.  The chemical profiles will change the way your soap will react with your skin.  If you have sensitive skin, consider adding oils that are commonly used in hand creams like Aloe, Shea Nut, and Jojoba.

Furthermore, all this fiddly stuff is basically an Algebra Equation.  That means that someone has already written a calculator that will tell you how much Water and Lye mixture you shall add to your oils.  You enter in your quantity of oils in ounces or grams, and tell the calculator that you want to have a solid or a liquid soap, and it spits out a recipe.  Easy huh?

My weird Kitchen Castoff Soap was a simple recipe –

7.4 Oz Coconut Oil

6 Oz Sesame Oil

2 Oz Shea Nut Oil

5.08 Oz Water

2.28 Oz Lye (Sodium Hydroxide)

Fragrance Essential Oils would be added, I used 1/2 Ounce or 14 grams of Rosemary Essence Oil.

While this is a “Cold Process Soap Recipe”, technically it is not a “Castile” soap because there is no Olive oil in it.  Won’t matter, I’m looking for something for sensitive skin first time out.

It made for a small batch of five smallish soap bars.  It is curing and will remain curing for six weeks to harden.  After four days, it is noticeably more firm than it was on day 2.

Fourth – Assembling Supplies.

No Aluminum – Ever.

Everything used should be either Plastic or Stainless Steel.

Silicone can be used for molds.

Parchment Paper worked best to line the molds.

Individual soap bars can be made in a loaf in a silicone bread pan, then sliced on day 2 by using a dough cutter that is typically stiff plastic or stainless steel.

Silicone individual soap bar molds are available.

Plastic handled Silicone Tipped Spatula to scrape the soap out of the mixing bowl.

Disposable container to mix Lye into Water (in that order).

Container to mix oils.

Measuring cups – glass or plastic.

Electrically powered stick mixer is pretty much a requirement.

You should take a trip to the kitchen and see what you can “sacrifice” to Soap Making.  You really don’t want your soap supplies to mix with your cooking supplies since you will never get all that residue off of things.  Take a Sharpie or Paint and write “Soap” on these supplies.

No, really, keep things separate.

Then go to the local thrift store, then the dollar store, then perhaps a Kitchen supply house in that order.

Why in that order?

Because of price.  I got my 4 Quart (3.8 Liter) stainless steel Farberware pot for $4, and a Stick Mixer for $6.   Also found silicone spatulas and plastic mixing spoons for $.50 each.  Soap Molds?  They were there for $.25 each.  Measuring Cup was a Dollar.

I made do with some old plastic Cottage Cheese containers for mixing Lye into Water.  It got recycled anyway!

The Thrift Stores are your friend.

The Dollar Stores sometimes also have Cocoa Butter and Shea Butter, but make sure that they are Pure and have nothing else listed in the ingredients.

I got my Lye at an Ace Hardware at 5.38 a pound.  It was clearly listed as 100% Lye, and was sold as Drain Cleaner.

White Vinegar for neutralizing any Lye, or Water/Lye, or Soap mix that gets on your hands.  All products are caustic until at least partial curing happens.

Finally Beauty Supply houses may be helpful.

Of course there is always online.  The Lye Calculator has affiliate links so that they can pay for that wonderful Lye Calculator page that they wrote.

Fifth – How I made my first batch.

I gathered all my gear together in the kitchen.

Measured out my Ice Water – the water should be as cold as possible without any chunks of ice.

I set the water in a plastic cottage cheese container inside my stainless steel mixing pot, then surrounded the cottage cheese container with ice.

The reason for all this cold water is that Lye reacts with water to create Heat, Noxious Poisonous Fumes, and the Water and Lye that you need to add to your oils.  The colder you have the water, the better.  It will become hot to the touch and you need the Water/Lye mix to be close to the same temperature as your Oils when you go to mix your soap.

Mix your Oils – All my oils were liquid.  Knowing that the Water/Lye mix was going to be hot, I heated my oils to 120F or about 50C.  Approximately.  My house is warm enough to keep Virgin Coconut Oil soft or even liquid in the winter months – this is South Florida after all.

I placed the oils in a plastic cottage cheese holding container and set aside.

Weighing out the precise amount of Lye, I walked it outside where I had previously set the ice water.  It was on a table next to my garden hose in case it splashed.  More importantly, a gallon of White Vinegar was sitting next to the table in case of emergency.

White Vinegar will neutralize Lye better than Water.

Getting a plastic teaspoon in one hand, I began to SLOWLY pour the lye into the ice water and stir it as I mixed things.  As it mixed, the water clouded up, and there was a production of gasses.

I continued slowly adding lye to the now warming water in the cup in the middle of the ice bath while stirring and making certain not to breath in the fumes.  Luckily I had a very light breeze that way off the ocean blowing the fumes off.

Once the Water/Lye mix was complete, I left it there to cool.  Removing it from the ice bath when it got roughly room temperature, I dumped out the ice water and dried out my pot thoroughly.

Next, I added the Oils Mixture to the mixing pot.

Adding the Water/Lye mixture to the Oils Mixture is done slowly.  Using the long plastic mixing spoon I had, I poured the lye into the Oils seeing an immediate clouding of the oils signifying the beginning of the Saponification Reaction that converts fats, water and lye into soap.

I was told that I could get the soap to change into a stiff pudding consistency in about 45 minutes max.  That was wrong.  I made the mistake of stirring this by hand for 50 minutes.  I saw a very slight thickening from a watery oil to a semi thick motor oil consistency.

I could have poured this all into molds and stopped however I had more to do.  Liquid Castile Soap made with the right recipe will firm up in a day if placed in the mold in the right conditions.

At this point I added in the one half ounce of Rosemary Essence and stirred this by hand before using the stick blender.   It was still quite liquid.

Then I brought it into the kitchen and mixed it with pulses from the Stick Blender.

It immediately thickened into something that looked like soft peaks in a meringue, or a not completely set pudding.

Next time I make soap, I will stir with the big plastic spoon for “A Couple Minutes” (arbitrary amount of time) then immediately come in and use the stick blender.

There’s a reason why electric tools are made!

Finally I scooped the soap into the molds that were lined with Baker’s Parchment Paper.  One was lined with plastic wrap and a third was unlined.  Stick with the Parchment Paper, it was absolutely the easiest to remove the bars from the molds.

Once removed from the molds, I placed the soap into a large cardboard box to cure.  Covering the soap with a towel helps to keep the curing bars from getting dusty.

Curing takes between 4 and 6 weeks.  It allows the Saponification Reaction to finish converting the fats in the oil and the Lye to Soap.  The longer you allow it to cure the less caustic the soap will be.

Be Patient.  A longer Cure is better than a shorter one.

Now I wait.  Some time around May 2, my soap will be ready to use.

Conclusion.

Watching all those videos put a scare in to me that I am glad I had.  Adding Lye to Water I got a sniff of the fumes they were talking about.  Dilute and a small accidental sniff, it was an evil acrid, smell.

Like I said, add Lye to Water and do so outdoors.

When I de-molded the soap, it left a little on the outside of the mold.  By the time I got around to cleaning the molds, the soap was strong but I was able to get a first “test”.  Not bad.  The Shea Butter helped to leave my hands silky smooth.

Looking forward to May to try this out safely.

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So Why Am I Supposed To Avoid Gluten?

The Short Answer is that since I don’t have a sensitivity, and I don’t have Celiac Disease, I don’t have any reason to avoid the stuff.

The slightly longer answer is that it’s a marketing gimmick for the roughly 99% of people who don’t have anything medical going on.   It isn’t to say that the other 1% out there who do have trouble don’t have a right to want something better to solve their problems, but if you’re “normal” in respect to it you are succumbing to yet another food fad that will just make you fat.

Celiac Disease is a state where the body takes gluten, which is a naturally occurring protein, and attacks it as an invader.  This happens in the intestines, and over time it will cause some serious side effects.   But these people are quite rare in respect to the population of about 8 billion.

They do need to watch.  You probably don’t.

Will eating Gluten Free hurt you?  Probably only in your wallet or in your taste buds or your waste if you are “normal”.

Gluten is a protein that happens when you prepare plant proteins like wheat for use in baked goods like bread.  Kneading will tend to increase the amount of gluten you will find in the “product”.  The reason why you might want it is so that the dough will be more stretchy.

That is definitely a plus in bread, not so good in cakes.  There is a special low protein flour that is used in baking cakes and pastries that is used so that you get that nice soft spongy result.  A chocolate cake that stretches isn’t really a good thing.  A Kaiser Roll, on the other hand should stretch.

When they take out the offending thing, whether that is gluten, fat, or some other food related “thing” other items will be added back.  Low Fat foods tend to be high sugar as a result.   Gluten Free Products can use a combination of fat and sugar to get the correct-ish mouth feel back.

But I don’t have Celiac Disease, and bake breads the way I do because I can.  Actually, I do it because I prefer the taste of a homemade bread, cake, or what have you to just about anything “Mass Market”.  There are some amazing commercially available breads and baked goods, for those of us who don’t have the interest or time to learn how to bake.

On the other hand, I’ve gotten so that with about 10 minutes of prep I can make a double batch of rolls.

I just have heard so much about this latest food fad and came to the conclusion that for the vast majority of us, Gluten Free is just going to be the fad of the year.

If you would like a video that explains most of this, I found this one for you.  At least I’ve finally been able to put my own head to rest on this.

How Can Your Dog Dance To The North If Your Compass Is Broken?

Ever since the article came out, we’ve got something else to obsess over.  Dog Walk OCD, I guess.

In the early morning hours, walking through the city, we’ve come to notice that there’s a routine.  It’s not a perfect one but it is ours.

There was a scientific discovery that dog owners are chuckling about all over and now I join the ranks.  The idea is to take your dog out for a walk.  Eventually dogs will do what dogs will do and squat to relieve themselves.  When they poo, they will try to align themselves on a North-South axis.

Rack’s compass doesn’t work.  It may be sticky, but I’ve noticed he’s not very good at it.  Even if he is pointing North in this picture, he just doesn’t always find his way.

We will walk around 3 to 6 miles a day, and when he gets the urge, there is a ritual. 

First we start to speed up.  His pace gets a bit quicker.  Walking With A Purpose I suspect.

Then he will begin to veer off the pavement.  Not knowing why this happens, I begin to pull him back.  Steer him back to the walkway. 

Of course he’s trying to go away from the street so I’m beginning to get clued in as to why he wants to annoy the neighbors and impose himself on their privacy.

So I have a 45 pound black and white dog stretching my arm out.  I’m pretty tall, but doing a Stretch Armstrong act is usually what follows.

Then the spiral happens.  “It’s Time To Dance, Rack?” as he begins to spin around.  It is never always one direction, not so that we have noticed.  The path looks like a nautilus shell, beginning to curve inwards in ever tighter spirals when he stops.

Everyone then takes notice.  If the street points due North, has he … nope!  The theory goes that you’re supposed to have a dog that aligns themselves on a North-South Axis, someone has to find this dog’s compass and give it a little nudge.   He just hasn’t found his North yet.

Sometimes he does, and sometimes he doesn’t.

That spin may have thrown him off.  The dance can get quite frenetic, spinning around like a Whirling Dervish looks comical, as he does this spin around the drain thing. 

Perhaps he’s distracted.  There could be a leaf moving on a tree 40 miles away in Miami and he would notice it.  You just try to point your butt when something especially interesting happens as you’re spinning yourself dizzy like a top.  Go ahead, I’ll wait, but don’t fall over.  It could get messy if you knock over a lamp.

The reality is that the study was done with dogs off leash.  As fast as my Rack is, I don’t think he’s ready for Off Leash Walking yet.   There may be a dog he’s friendly with a block and a half away and I was never really a fast runner.  Distance, yes, but speed, no.

Once he’s settled in, science aside, the fun and games are over and the work begins.

Does someone have a plastic bag?

Playing with Coffee Roasting Isn’t What It Seems – Pictures

Want a good dark cup of coffee because you’re feeling tired?  Need a jolt of Caffeine?  Don’t get the dark roast then, you will need more grounds than usual.

It’s backwards.  The darker roasts like an Espresso Roast or a French Roast have a much stronger flavor than the lighter “American style” roasts.  On the other hand, the American Style roasts have much more caffeine in them even if they are harsher and more bitter.

There is a reason for it.  Basic Science.

Ok, don’t switch off on me now, I won’t throw numbers at you. 

You see the longer your roast your beans, the hotter the beans get.  The hotter the beans get, the more likely the caffeine will break down.   The flavor you love in the coffee is really the flavor of the sugars breaking down, the coffee oil getting forced out, and the basic “roasting” of the bean.   Caffeine is bitter, so if you actually like that taste, you will have a harsher brew.

That’s it in a nut shell.

I did some experiments. 

The picture is “Green Coffee”.  It was 1/3 regular beans, 2/3 decaf beans.   Completely unroasted.  It’s what people call “White Coffee” when brewed.   Not an unpleasant taste, a bit grassy, but the result?  That “Third Caff” coffee was probably the strongest coffee I have ever had, and that includes the syrup that they call Cafe Cubano here. 

How strong was it?

I.
Saw.
Sound.

It was like Mr Sandman stood behind me pounding my head with a giant rubber squeaky mallet and screaming in my ears “WAKE UP!!!!“.

Get the picture?   It was pure jet fuel.

So I decided to take it back a step.

I roasted this lighter brown brew that you see in the jar.   Next to it is my regular dark roast in a spoon.  The science content for a fellow roaster is simple.  I stopped roasting the lighter coffee at First Crack, the darker roast was at Second Crack.

Coffee being a solid bean will crack twice during roast.  The Second Crack is what you get in a better coffee house since it’s got a full and complex flavor, smooth as silk.   First Crack is what your parents drank – bitter but chock full of caffeine.   First Crack coffee has a much less complex flavor because the coffee oils have not been “forced out” of the beans yet.   A Second Crack coffee will have a sheen of oil on the outside promising full and “Balanced” flavor.   This is what I send to friends and I always get reports back how smooth and wonderful it tastes.

I’m used to drinking Third Caff coffee.   When I tried some of the First Crack coffee, it was a bitter experience, and I felt that Jolt of coffee right away.  Even in Third Caff, I felt the difference.  The thought I had was that since First Crack American Style coffee takes so much less time to roast, they had to do it in order to make more and lower costs at the expense of a better brew.   Naughty, Naughty Roasters.  Be ashamed.

So the rule is Darker is Tastier but weaker coffee.   If you really need to wake up, I suggest getting to bed an hour later and having the darker coffee since life is too short to drink “bad” coffee.

If you’ll excuse me, all this talking about Roast Times and Caffeine has me wanting some Espresso.   Just remember not to pack the grounds too tightly or you’ll get a sour brew.   The grounds need room to “breathe” but that’s a story for a different day.

Oh and it will be Decaf.   Yes, Decaf Espresso.  I see you over there, smirking.  Don’t judge me, you don’t want to see someone as tall as I am bouncing off walls, it isn’t as entertaining as you might think.

You do want to see that?   Not today my friend, not today.

Bringing Crumpets to Newcastle – Picture

In this house, if it is a staple baked good and I’m running low, I tend to make some rather than make the shlep to Publix.

Mind you, I do like some of their baked goods, but the logistics of getting Rack in his crate, finding my car keys, getting the Jeep started, and all the ancillary nonsense will make me second guess leaving the house.

That sort of thing happens when you have the knowledge.   More importantly, the time, I would guess.

When David was sitting around here one morning, he casually mentioned that I was running low on Crumpets.  I figured that particular recipe out a while back and shared it here, but it is a very fiddly one.  Temperature, water percentage, the amount of batter poured out have to be exactly correct or you get a sinker or something that simply sticks to everything.   Annoying recipe, but that’s the challenge.

For the record, the griddle should be between 275F and 300F, grease the crumpet rings after each use with shortening, and pour less batter rather than more.   If you over fill the rings, they stick.  About 1/4 cup or 2 ounces per ring should do it even if that looks “light”.

We got to talking about his childhood in England near Wales, I got to talking about mine playing in the mud in New Jersey and getting in touch with our inner brats.  While telling stories I realized he had probably never had these crumpet things fresh.   Fresh as in off the griddle.

With the technology that we’ve assembled, this is the kind of the thing that is mostly left to the experts.  Here in South Florida, having a sizeable British Ex-Pat community, you can find Crumpets in the frozen food aisle at Publix – occasionally.  They’re also about twice the price of the run of the mill English Muffins for about 1/2 of the calorie count.  It’s that “fiddly” aspect.

Having been watching Downton Abbey recently, I gained a new respect for how people used to do things Back In The Day.  The sort of thing that I would casually just “whip up” takes some serious planning and time to prepare.  Making food back then, in the World War One era had to be much more difficult.  Wood Fired stoves take a long time to get to the right temperature and once they were there, they had to be maintained very carefully or they’d get too hot or too cold.

I will stop complaining about my own electric oven that has a passing acquaintance with holding the temperature.   It just seemed silly to complain when I saw Mrs Packmore on that show trying to cook on a giant black cast iron stove that took up the wall of a kitchen that was the size of my living room.

We’ve got it easy in comparison.  Fiddly recipes can be made casually.  Back In The Day memories where people would work all day in the kitchen put people off of cooking because they’re afraid they’d be standing over the stove for hours. 

For the record, it takes me on average 10 minutes per crumpet by the time I have the batter made, and that takes an hour itself.   Yeast has its own rhythm, you can’t rush the little Yeasty Beasties.  It is a Long Weekend Afternoon when I make those things.

No wonder why David’s not had them made fresh.

DEET Only Deters Mosquitos First Time

I knew it.  I knew Mosquito Deterrents only worked for a short while.   Now I have scientific proof.

I guess I’ll just have to go find a really big hamster ball.

The story is that if I used a mosquito deterrent spray to keep the little nasties off me, they would work only for a short time, then I’d be back to swatting.  The reason is that DEET, which is the chemical that was developed for the US Army back in WWII, would get in the bug’s antennas.   The receptors would get clogged up, and the mosquitoes would ignore the DEET on the second go.

Think about it.  You spray yourself with that Deep Woods Off, you expect to be able to go outside and have a good time.  If the wind is low, and you are in a crowd, that may not work.   The mosquitoes will go to the next guy for a while, and you’re fine.   But after being exposed to your repellent, and not finding something, they home in on your own Carbon Dioxide, and you’re being bit.  In a breeze, the bugs that got exposed to DEET would be blown away on the breeze and fresh, unexposed mosquitoes would be the next in line and be repelled until that breeze stops.

That is completely within my own experience.   I’m the mosquito buffet in a crowd.  I’ll go out lathered in that goop and still get bit. 

Sometimes, just knowing what you are up against is half the battle.  Besides, I think it would be fun to play in a giant hamster ball on top of the waves on the ocean.   Maybe tow it behind a boat?  Bounce off the wake?

The whole story was on the BBC today, here at this link.

That’s a load off my mind, even if it means I’m still going to be bit.

Ever Wonder Why Mosquitoes Don’t Drown in a Storm?

Living in South Florida means that you have a lot of pets. 

Some pets are intentional.  I couldn’t live without my dog, and my parrot.  I’ve had animals with me most of my life.  You can tell what kind of person someone is by how their pet reacts to them, but that is a very different story…

Other pets are unintentional.  Those are the ones that I would like to put a dome over my backyard, trap, and fill it with pesticides so that I can have a little piece and quiet in the pool.

I am referring to my flock … of Mosquitoes. 
Of course, you knew that from the topic.

They have to be pets after all because I tend to feed them every time I go outside.  Oh look Daddy’s back, lets have a snack!  Love Daddy’s legs… and

SWAT!  DIE BLOODSUCKERS!

Ahh much better now…

You see the Tiger mosquitoes are here, black with white stripes.  They could have called them Zebras but that would not adequately describe their ferocity. 

When I’m in the pool, I tend to go down in the water to my neck and they still find a place to find a meal. 

If I spot them as they are coming in for a landing, I usually splash with a cloud of water hoping that I knock them into the chlorinated pool and drown them … but it doesn’t work.  They seem to miss the water and come back to visit again in a few minutes.  It is as if they’re toweling their tiny bodies off and coming back for more.

Now as silly as that may sound, that is probably closer to the truth of the story than we might realize.  You see the scientists were at it again as reported on this article.  The mosquitoes were found to be so light and lacking mass that the water would hit them, and they would be unharmed.   Escape the water droplet and off they fly.   For the most part they’re able to escape and not drown.

So the moral of the story is that if you want to get rid of mosquitoes, drain all your water in plant pots, spray where you can’t drain, and be careful in the yard.   We spray the yard on Friday so that Saturday we can use it.

Oh and if you’re going to splash the little buggers, go whole hog – use a LOT of water and knock them out of the sky.  A little spray won’t do it.