2014 S.O.A.P. Panel and New Soaps

I’m really excited to have been chosen for the 2014 S.O.A.P. Panel by Bramble Berry. In order to qualify for selection, entrants needed to choose their favorite Bramble Berry product and discuss it in social media—Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or a blog. I actually use all four media with New England Handmade Artisan Soaps, so the first decision I had to make was which social media outlet to use. I selected Pinterest mainly because I think it’s more open than Facebook (users do not need to “follow” you to come across your pins), and it seems to be used by more soapers than Twitter. I find fewer soapers use blogs than the other three types of social media, too. I am a dedicated blogging fan, and I do see a lot of value in blogging, but I felt perhaps Pinterest had the widest possible audience, so I selected Pinterest to share my favorite product.

I admit it was really hard to pick a product. There are so many that I love. However, what it came down to is one product that I use the most often and that I rely on Bramble Berry for: sustainable palm oil. I have blogged about sustainable palm oil before. There is some controversy surrounding the use of palm oil because of rainforest deforestation for palm plantations and concerns about the loss of habitat for orangutans. However, many palm farmers rely on the crop to eke out a living, and eschewing the use of palm oil entirely doesn’t help those farmers, either. The stance of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil is to promote the production and use of sustainable palm oil through sustainable farming practices.

If you start looking at labels, you’ll notice palm oil is in so many things you eat. I think it is pretty nearly impossible to determine whether or not all these products you consume are made with sustainable palm oil, but when you are purchasing palm oil for yourself in bulk, it’s fairly easy to do. When I made the decision not to use animal fats in my soapmaking, I was encouraged to learn that palm oil is a plant-based oil that is similar to tallow and brings some of the good features of tallow—a nice, hard bar of soap, rich and creamy lather—to vegetable oil-based bars. Unfortunately, once I decided to use palm oil, I discovered that most of the oil suppliers I use do not certify that their palm oil is sustainable. That doesn’t mean it isn’t, but to my way of thinking, if you know your palm oil is sustainable, you will mention it. Bramble Berry is one of the few suppliers I could find that certified that their palm oil is sustainable, and it’s available at a good price. That is why I selected their sustainable palm oil as a favorite product. I use it in most of my soaps.

I apologize to anyone thinking I sound like a commercial right about now. I just think sustainable palm oil is important, and I am really happy that Bramble Berry sells it. I am a happy customer, and I am excited to try their new mystery fragrances as part of the S.O.A.P. Panel. As a side note, I recently had an issue with a Bramble Berry order shipping quite late. They aren’t sure what happened, but they made it right with a very generous coupon for future orders. I really can’t complain about Bramble Berry, and I recommend them to everyone who asks about suppliers.

Switching gears, I made a couple of new soaps that I’m happy with and excited about. The first is an Aloe & Calendula soap scented with orange blossoms and yuzu.

Aloe & CalendulaI infused the olive oil I used in this soap with calendula petals and also used calendula petals in the soap and decorated the top as well. I think the reason the soap turned out this light, butter yellow is that the calendula infusion imparted some color to the soap. Of course, it could have been the fragrances I used, but neither one is supposed to discolor. In order to find out, I’d have to try them without a calendula-infused oil. At any rate, I’m happy with the color because it matches the scent and look of the soap. Aside from olive oil, I also used coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, sunflower oil, castor oil, kaolin clay, and tussah silk. I mixed the lye with aloe vera juice. These turned out so nice, and they smell so good!

I’m learning sometimes simple is best. Some of my favorite soaps are not incredibly complicated to make, but they are wonderful soaps. That certainly isn’t to say I don’t like soaps with more intricate and difficult designs. I have reached a stage at which there needs to be a payoff. If the design is more difficult and complicated than the trouble making it is worth, then I don’t bother. I actually feel that way about the peacock swirl, for instance. Pretty (more so when the soap is still wet, however), but not worth it for me.

Yesterday I made a soap I’ve been thinking about for some time, and at the last minute, I had to change my plans, too. This soap is a Tres Leches Soap.

Tres Leches SoapI intended to make it with goat milk, coconut milk, and cream, but once I got started, I realized I had no coconut milk. I was absolutely certain I had coconut milk! I improvised instead and used goat milk yogurt after dithering about buttermilk for a few minutes. I am not sure goat milk and goat milk yogurt are different enough to be considered two different milks, but I’m going for it. In the future, I if I make it again, I’ll definitely try coconut milk. This soap is based on tres leches cake, which is a sponge cake made with evaporated milk, condensed milk, and cream.

Aside from goat milk, goat milk yogurt, and cream, this soap also has a generous amount of olive oil, coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, cocoa butter, castor oil, and kaolin clay. I scented it with a Vanilla Lace fragrance that works perfectly with the soap’s look and concept. It really smells great! The fragrance riced on me. I’m not sure if I can blame the fragrance for acceleration, however, as the recipe does have a large amount of  cocoa butter. The bars are so smooth and hard already! I don’t think I could have waited longer to cut them, or they might have been too hard for my cutter.

It is interesting to me that the soap wound up with a sort of speckled appearance. I didn’t add any oatmeal or anything else that is known to produce that look. I can’t say whether it was the milks or the fragrance. I’ve never used goat milk and cream together before. I also haven’t used that fragrance, and I typically don’t use quite as much cocoa butter as I did in this recipe. Too many variables to determine why it turned out that way, but I absolutely love it. It has a wholesome, rustic appearance. I love happy accidents. I also love the glycerine rivers. With all the milks in this soap, it got fairly hot during gel phase, and I thought I would probably have some glycerine rivers, as I also used titanium dioxide to lighten the soap up a bit. They wound up being perfect design outlines. It actually looks quite a bit like tres leches cake.

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