Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Alkanet Faux Column Swirl Cold Process Soap Tutorial

This week is a tutorial for a Cold Process Soap technique called the Faux Column Pour.  It produces a lovely soft swirl or a drastic ringed effect depending on how heavy a trace the soap is at the time of pouring. This technique is not for beginners so we recommend having a few solid batches under your belt before trying it.  We used a simple recipe consisting of a large percentage of liquid oils, this will inhibit the thickening of the soap so you have more working time.   Here is the formula for a 4 lb recipe:
202 grams             Sodium Hydroxide
500 grams        Soft or Distilled Water
500 grams                   Coconut Oil 76
425 grams                      Sunflower Oil
200 grams                             Olive Oil
200 grams                  Palm Kernel Oil
50 grams              Shea Butter Refined
The soaping temperature of this recipe is 120 degrees Celsius.  If you're a little rusty and haven't made soap in a couple years it might be worth it to read the standard CP soap instructions here
As a colourant we used Voyageur's brand new Alkanet Root Powder.  It is widely used within the soapmaking community as a natural botanical colourant that will give you a range of colours from soft grey to lavender to royal blue.  To achieve a deeper jewel tone the alkanet works better if it's infused into an oil first.  It can be added directly to the soap at trace but this could cause some speckling and a gritty texture.  If you're infusing your Alkanet root you need to prepare it before you start making your soap.   We took 60 grams of Alkanet root powder and added it to 200 grams of olive oil.  Let this sit for at least a few days, shaking on a regular basis, and slowly it will turn a beautiful blood red.  If you want to minimize any speckling in the soap you can strain the extract out of the olive oil using a coffee filter or cheesecloth; we chose not to do this and we loved the smooth, even look of the soap!  In this recipe we used 10 grams of the infused oil.
The next step is to line your mold with freezer paper.  Brand spanking new at Voyageur are the long-awaited square or slab style molds in the 4 lb or 10 lb size!  These beautiful, handmade Canadian molds are super sturdy and can be used thousands of times.  They are perfect for cold process, hot process and rebatch soap making.  For a step by step guide on how to line these square molds click here.  
Once your mold is lined prepare your soap station with everything that you'll need to make the soap such as: the oils in the formula, lye, water, measuring cups, a scale, a stick blender, two large bowls/containers to mix the soap in, a spatula, a whisk, gloves, safety goggles, paper towel, your alkanet infusion, your essential oil, and anything else you might need while soaping.  Having to stop mid-soap and grab something you forgot is the worst!  Be sure that you follow the proper safety rules: ensure you're soaping in a well-ventilated area, wear long sleeves, gloves, and safety glasses, have vinegar nearby in case you need to neutralize a lye burn, and make sure there are no pets or children around.  
It's time to start!  Measure out 500 grams of water into a large measuring cup.  Measure out your lye into a smaller cup, ensuring that you're very precise.  

Add your lye into the water slowly, then stir until the lye is totally dissolved.  Remember, lye does emit fumes when mixed with water so be sure to breathe away from the measuring cup you're mixing.  Take it from personal experience, it doesn't feel nice to have lye fumes in your lungs!  Set the lye water aside and let it start to come down in temperature.  If you are super speedy and know that you'll be fast at measuring your oils you can pop the lye water into an ice water bath to help it cool down faster.
Measure out your oils into a large plastic or glass container.  Melt the oils in the microwave or on a double boiler until all the solids have melted.  You want your oils and your lye water to be within 10 degrees of each other, so make sure you're not heating those oils up too hot!  Once the oils and lye water are both somewhere around the 120 degree mark within 10 degrees of each other it's time to mix them together.

Slowly add your lye water into your oils in one fluid motion, then whisk by hand for 15 seconds.  Alternate between using your whisk and your hand mixer for 15 second increments until a light trace stage is reached. 

Add your essential or fragrance oil and whisk well.  We used 50 ml of our super popular Uplifting Blend, a mixture of Lavender, Bergamot, and Sweet Orange essential oils.  This blend is widely used in spas and relaxes the mind while uplifting the spirit!  We thought that it suits the gauzy, dreamy swirl of the faux column method.
Divide the batch up into two (roughly) equal parts.  Take the 10 grams of infused oil and add it into one of the bowls.  Whisk gently until you get an even deep purple colour through the soap. 

Bring both batches to a medium trace through more whisking.  If you want the distinction between the two colours to be more defined bring the soap to a heavier trace.  On the other hand, if you want the swirl to be more feathery and soft keep the soap at a light trace while pouring.  
Slowly start to pour one batch of soap directly into the middle of the mold.  Alternate between the two colours of soap, counting in your head for 3 seconds each time you pour to keep the soap even between the two colours.  Continue to alternate the soap pouring straight into the middle of the mold until no more soap is left.  

We did a quick dreamcatcher swirl on the top of the loaf by taking a dowel or small stick and drawing a loop design starting in the middle of the mold and working your way out to the edges, then coming back to the middle again repeatedly until you've gone full circle around the mold.  
Bang your mold down a few times to make sure no air bubble are trapped, then you're done!  Toss a piece of freezer paper on the top of the mold, then insulate the mold with a few towels and blankets.  We wanted to make sure the soap went through a gel phase so we piled on the blankets to keep the soap nice and toasty!
Wait at least 24 hours (no peeking!) then unmold your soap.  Flip the mold on its head and gently loosen the wing nuts until you can wiggle the mold off the slab of soap.  Peel back the freezer paper and flip your slab back on its bottom.
Cut the loaf into however many bars you'd like!  This soap was a little soft so you can wait a couple extra days between unmolding and cutting.  Let the soap cure for 4 weeks and then you're ready to use your luscious alkenet infused soap!  


  1. I have a question: The alkanet root infusion, did you use the 200 g Olive Oil that was called for in the recipe or is that a separate measurement? Also did you use 200 g of Olive Oil in the recipe? The remaining 190 g of alkanet root infusion that was left over did you save that for another recipe?

  2. Hello there! I infused a separate 200 g of olive oil that the recipe did not call for, the 10 grams that we added in will act as a superfatting agent. We did save the other 190 grams to use in our production, the reason why we did such a large amount was because all the research I had done about infusing it said that it works better in larger quantities! It would be very tricky to get the right ratio if you're only infusing 10 grams to start with. Hope this helps!

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