I had so much fun creating these sunny, speckled bars. The idea was to create a swirl using texture—as opposed to colour—to differentiate the swirl from the rest of the soap. When I set out to make these bars it had been positively ages since I’d made soap. Who else gets sucked into those strange inertia loops where you haven’t done something in a long time, so you keep not doing it, and then BAM… it’s been months? That’s me and… so many things. Anyhow—as I brought the lye water and fats to trace and starting working with the batter I wondered why it had been so long. Soap making is far too fun to fall victim to the do-nothing inertia loop!
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One of the first soaps I ever made was a lemon poppy seed soap, done up to look a bit like a loaf of lemon poppy seed cake. It was bright yellow thanks to the addition of some vibrant buriti oil, and was speckled throughout with wee black poppy seeds. I only recently chucked out the last one of those bars while moving—it had long since donned many dreaded orange spots, and had aged so much that every surface was concave (much like many of its c. 2011 brethren). Anywho—as I went through the dregs of my early soaping days I realized it was high time I made another poppy-seedy bar, so with poppy seeds + textured swirl on the mind, these bars were born.
I knew I’d need a pretty slow-tracing batter to give me time to create a more liquidy swirl, so I designed a batter that uses more liquid oils than my typical blends. I also worked a wee bit warmer than I usually do—just a titch above room temperature. While cooler batters do trace slower than hotter batters, I’ve found very cool batters start to thicken up faster than slightly warm batters. Slightly warm is where it’s at for working time.
The colour of these bars comes from the essential oil blend, so they’re really simple to make. Once I had the batter at a fairly light trace (it needs to be viscous enough to support the weight of poppy seeds) I blended in the essential oils and poured a quarter of it into another container. I stirred a healthy dose of poppy seeds into the quarter of the batter—enough that the seeded batter would contrast with the seed-free batter.
Given the liquidy state of the batter, and the fact that the poppy seed batter would need to be pretty concentrated to create a noticeable swirl, I decided to let the pour into the mold do the work rather than risking a pot swirl become too diffuse for the effect to be noticeable. I poured against a spatula to keep things from getting too mixed together; the poppy seed part is poured overtop about half of the non-poppy seeded batter, and then the remaining seed-free batter is poured down one side of the mold to create a swirl.
I gave the very liquidy batter about twenty minutes to set up before sculpting the top, and then left it to saponify and set up for three days. That’s a pretty long time according to general soaping guidelines, but with this softer blend of oils more time in the mold gave me a firmer bar that was easier to slice without accidentally damaging it. I made sure to slice it through the side so I didn’t drag the poppyseed topping through the bars.
Every slice looks different, but the final bars definitely have a noticeable cloud of nebula-like poppy seeds dancing through them. There’s been a bit of darkening around the seeds, so it looks a bit like a galaxy with a sort of glow around each star creating a cloud-like appearance. The bars smell wonderfully citrussy, and kept a bit of colour from the vibrant essential oil blend. I love ’em!
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Citrus Poppy Seed Swirl Soap
25% refined coconut oil (USA / Canada)
25% beef tallow (wondering why?)
45% canola oil
5% castor oil (USA / Canada)
Calculate to 5% superfat
Per 500g oils:
- 14g | 0.49oz litsea cubeba essential oil
- 16g | 0.56oz orange essential oil
- Poppy seeds, as needed (1–2 tbsp)
Kick things off by calculating out your recipe for the amount of soap you’re making to get the finite amounts of the fats, lye, and water. Unsure about how to use SoapCalc? I made a video to walk you through it! Please ensure you’re familiar with standard soap making procedure before diving in (click that link if you aren’t!).
Prepare your mould—you’ll want a loaf mould for this soap. Melt your oils together in your soaping pot, and have a container with a pouring spout handy (I use these awesome funnel pitchers). Let your oils cool to slightly warmer than room temperature. Mix up your lye water and let that cool to about room temperature (you can use ice for part of your water to speed up the cooling process).
While everything is cooling, weigh out your essential oils.
Once the melted fats and lye water are just slightly warmer than room temperature, follow standard soap making procedure to bring them to a fairly light trace. Once you have a relatively thin trace, blend in the essential oils.
Now it’s time to divide up our batter! Pour about 25% of it into the small pitcher and stir enough poppy seeds into that portion to create a noticeable contrast with the remaining 75% of the batter.
Pour approximately half of the unseeded batter into the mould. Follow with the seeded batter, pouring it over a spatula relatively close to the surface of the batter in the mold to prevent too much mixing. Finish off with the rest of the unseeded batter, pouring it over a spatula, up against one edge of the loaf mold.
Once the batter has been poured, leave it for twenty minutes to thicken before sculpting the top and decorating it with some more poppy seeds—watch the video to see what I did.
Leave to saponify for 48–72 hours. Remove from the mould and slice, and then leave to age for at least four weeks before using or gifting. Enjoy!
I love the look and idea of these bars! Question though: I read somewhere in your blog/website something that was posted in the last year or so I believe. (I just tried to find it so I could have accurate info here, but I couldn’t find it so I’m having to go on a poor memory, haha) You mentioned that you didn’t believe in using soap on your skin anymore because of the ph problem I believe? Was that just for your face? Can you please give some info on that? Thank you!
Here’s the link to that post 🙂 From my research, infrequent use on the body should be ok if somebody wants to use soap as the acid mantle does repair itself, so if you’re only sudsing up two or three times a week it should be ok. Anything that is being used daily should probably be more pH balanced. That said, plenty of people swear by soap regardless of its pH, and who am I to tell them their experience is wrong? If their skin/hair loves soap, I’m glad they’ve found something that works for them!
Holy sweet Hannah this would smell amazing!
I’ve never worked with poppy seeds in soap before, how do you find the scrubby texture? Is it like coffee! Or better?
I find it to be milder than coffee as the bits are smaller and fairly spherical, but of course the amount matters! Back in my early days I remember making both coffee and poppy seed bars that probably could’ve exfoliated an alligator LOL.
Is there another oil you can use instead of Canola? I got back and forth on canola oil weather it is good or not. In a soap it would not really matter though.
For sure—rice bran and olive would be good choices. I just have sooooo much canola oil lol.
The soap also makes a good air freshner 🙂
I left mine on the bathroom counter for a few days and the bathroom smelled great.
Nice! I hope you’re enjoying them as soap as well 😀
Do you have to do this bit “Leave to age for at least four weeks before using or gifting” before using or once solid can you use straight away?
Hi Rebecca! I think you will find your answer if you re-read your question 🙂 “Leave to age for at least four weeks before using” means you need to leave it to age for four weeks before using. This is a universal thing when making cold process soap; the time isn’t always 4 weeks, but ageing is an absolute must unless you want soft, snotty, soap that quickly breaks down into clumps and mostly goes to waste. Happy making!
I tried making soap with this recipe yesterday! I really enjoyed it.
Unfortunately as I check this morning, I could see the soap crack already. what I don’t understand is that it’s not hot at all in Montreal, and aprox. 20 degrees C in my apartment… what would be the reason for cracking then ?
Thank you 🙂
It’s likely still the heat; I’ve had some batches of soap need some time in the fridge not to overheat!
I’ve been making soap from a specific list of oils, water, and lye in grams. I haven’t done any %s of oils, etc.
Do you have it broken down in grams for each oil, water, and lye?
I don’t share soap formulations that way, but if you read the instructions the first paragraph contains all the info + links you need to calculate it yourself (an essential skill for soap makers 🙂 ). Happy making!