“Well," said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.” A. A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh
Mmmmm honey, the anticipation of it's thick flavorful offerings-it's good for so many things-one of which is soap. There aren't many ingredients I won't sacrifice for the sake of soap; herbs, teas, beer-are all fair game. I have to admit though I have a soft spot for honey, as I measure out each deliciously fragrant spoonful of honey- I have to admit I'm a bit remorseful, wishing instead that I were enjoying it decadently drizzled on a delicious scone, or perhaps enjoying a touch in my morning tea. However, knowing it's extraordinary contributions to soap, and ultimately the skin-I willingly make the sacrifice.
Honey, like glycerin is hygrogropic meaning it attracts water-moisture to your skin leaving it soft and dewy throughout the day. Honey also boasts natural anti-oxidant and anti microbial properties along with a litany of other beneficial properties making it a perfect "food" for your skin.
On the downside, honey is notorious for being a bit troublesome to work with in terms of soap making, so I thought I would share with you a few tips that I have found that make it a bit easier for me. I use a fair amount of honey(1 tbs. per pound of oils) to make my Orange Honey Drizzle with Oats soap;a soap I've been making now for probably a couple of years-it's my very favorite of all time and if I had to choose only one soap to use from now on it would be this one-hands down. I love that it smells good enough to eat and even more importantly the way it makes my skin feel.
* I'd like to add a change right here-in the above paragraph I stated that I used 1tbs. of honey per pound of oils. Previous to switching to this mold I was using a silcone mold, and so I never experienced any sticking issues-the mold below is a transitional mold(a move up in batch size) that I just started using. I line with freezer paper and with this batch I experienced some sticking to the paper on the bottom of the block. I'm thinking the next batch I will pull back on the honey just a bit. I'm thinking I might go 6tbs. to the 8 pounds of oils to see if the sticking issue is eliminated by a bit less honey. This is to say, that you might need to play around just a bit with your honey ratio as well to avoid overheating, sticking etc.
So here we go-
- Working with honey can be a sticky,icky mess. I find that if I lightly coat my measuring cup+ tablespoon with vegetable oil the honey doesn't stick to my cup or spoon making things much easier to deal with.
- Secondly, if you've ever made soap with honey and thought it was all integrated only to find those caramel colored splotches in your finished product-you know how frustrating integrating honey can be. I find that adding just a bit of water to my honey and slightly heating it makes it much easier to fully integrate into my oils. I like to get my oils to emulsification first, then slightly heat my honey/water in the microwave-just so I can tell the honey is loosened and a bit watery and then I add it to my base oils being sure to stick blend a bit to get it nicely mixed in. Adding a bit of water to the honey is okay for me because I use a water discount anyway so adding a bit back does not make my batch too wet and it saves me the frustration of honey that does not get mixed into the batch well-so sad when that happens(and it has happened-thus these little tips.)
- Also,when soaping with honey (a hot additive due to it's high sugar content) you need to be careful. I find that letting my lye get fairly cool(I tend to soap with my lye around 110 degrees Fahrenheit.) and my oils even cooler-works well for me. In my experience, soaping on the cooler (esp.with ingredients high in sugars) side is very key to avoiding cracking and even worse a volcano. This brings up an important tip-if you suspect you may have a volcano incident on your hands (with beer, wine, honey, coconut milk, goat's milk or anything with lots of sugars)-put your mold over a tray of some kind to catch the mess and watch your eyes as it can spew raw soap all over. I've never had a volcano happen, but know people that have and it is a a mess to be avoided. I have had cracking on top-a precursor to a volcano.
- Avoid over insulation of your mold. I use a wood mold and while I used to insulate and still in the cooler months throw a light towel around my mold-I don't insulate at all in the warmer months. It's always important to consider the ambient temperature of your soaping environment.Ambient heat with an already hot batch equal trouble.
Freshly poured batch-the top is a little crazy,but I'm not overly concerned because the top will be trimmed. One of the challenges in working with honey is that it also attracts ash(due to it's hygroscopic nature)-by trimming the top I don't have to worry about this. I will cover this soap with the lid to the mold,but will not insulate.
Oh! and be sure to tell share YOUR favorite tips for working with honey or perhaps your horrible volcano stories..