If we’re going to be making Jane Austen inspired things, we obviously have to make a soap. I feel very confident that Pemberley would have the loveliest of soaps in all of the (presumably numerous) washing and bathing facilities. I also feel more confident than is perhaps historically warranted that the occupants of Pemberley bathed regularly. Anyhow—I wanted to create a soap worthy of gilded soap dishes and claw-footed tubs—something with the understated visual grace I associate with the Regency era. These creamy bars with a subtle, swirly top are what I came up with.
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I knew I wanted this soap to be creamy and white, so in order to do that without glycerin rivers popping up I used Auntie Clara’s water discount technique. The water discount makes for a batter that traces and thickens faster than usual, so I kept the fat blend on the softer side and kept the design simple—I’m new enough to steep water discounts that I’m not trying anything too complex with ’em yet!
Our scent blend is more or less the same one we’ve been using throughout the Pemberley series so far. I used rose fragrance oil instead of rose wax or rose hydrosol for both cost considerations and the longevity of the scent. The benzoin and grapefruit are the same; I did drop the cardamom essential oil for cost reasons, but you are welcome to include it if you’ve got a lot and you’re feeling indulgent! I’d probably trade 1g of each the rose and benzoin for cardamom essential oil (per 500g oils).
The design here is very simple; a creamy white bar with a subtle pearlescent swirly mica topping. That’s it. I was thinking about the gowns in the 1995 BBC Pride & Prejudice mini-series—they were mostly whites and creams, with subtle pastel detailing. I used a loaf mold, but I think these bars would also do really well in a pan-type mold, or a cavity mold (these would be stunning as round or oval bars!). Thanks to the water discount and a good percentage of hardening tallow, these bars trace easily and age up relatively quickly.
I learned something interesting from the slicing of these bars. I used a guillotine-type wire cheese cutter to do most of the slicing rather than a knife; I used the knife to cleave off the ends of the mold from the loaf, and the soap was already so firm and tacky that I made the switch to wire. Strangely, the soap had little wee bumps through it—almost like stearic acid granules when a body butter goes grainy—but only on the faces of the bars that had been sliced with wire. The slices that had been cut with the knife had, instead, teensy little bubbles that I’ve encountered in other bars I’ve made in the past. What the what?
Fortunately The Nerdy Farm Wife has a fantastic post of funny things soap can do, and this funny thing was in it. If you scroll down to “Soap has small visible white spots all throughout” you’ll find a discussion of air bubbles in soap, and photos showing how, strangely enough, slicing soap with a wire makes the little bubbles much more visible, and also much less bubble-like. When sliced with a knife, the same soap will instead have teensy little bubbles throughout—which is exactly what I experienced. So, mystery solved; thank you Jan (a.k.a. The Nerdy Farm Wife)!
Challenge-wise, I’d call these bars pretty darn beginner friendly—if you’ve made a batch or two of soap I think you’ll be pretty comfortable making these. Happy soaping!
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Calculate to 5% superfat with “water as % of oils” at 21.2% (or water to lye ratio at 3:2)
Per 500g fats:
- 5g (0.18oz) rose fragrance oil
- 5g (0.18oz) benzoin resinoid or vanilla fragrance oil
- 3g (0.1oz) pink grapefruit essential oil
- 10g (0.35 oz) white kaolin clay
- Pearl-coloured pinkish mica, pre-dispersed in liquid oil (as needed)
- Titanium dioxide, pre-dispersed in liquid oil (as needed)
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—I used a loaf mould for this soap. Melt your oils together in your soaping pot and then them 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).
Lay out your work area so you can easily grab your fragrance blend, and be sure to pre-disperse the clump-prone titanium dioxide in some extra liquid oil so you don’t have to over-blend the batter to smoothly incorporate it. Prepare your mould by lining it, if required.
Now you’re ready to get started! Begin by blending the kaolin clay into the fats. Once that mixture is smooth, add the lye water and bring to a thin trace. Blend in the fragrance blend and enough titanium dioxide to get a white-ish batter.
Pour the batter into the mold. Scatter drops of the pre-dispersed mica over the top of the batter and swirl together using a toothpick.
Leave the soap to set up for about 20 hours (no longer!) before slicing and leaving to age for three weeks before using. Enjoy!