WOW has there been a lot of visible gel phase this year! As we roll into autumn and winter soap production (remember soap must cure 4-8 weeks minimum, so yep it's on the racks now!) there are a lot of milk soaps being created for the cooler months. And milk soaps tend to get HOT, even if you soap at the coolest temperatures. Natural sugars in any form - milk, honey, powdered milks, beeswax, fruits etc - make soap warmer than it would be without them. This year is no exception, we've had some incredible looking gel phase and a few cracks along the way!
In the top left photos that look like jam thumbprint cookies, you can clearly see gel phase begin in the center of each bar. Eventually each bar is fully in gel phase, all the way to the edges, thus it won't be visible in the final bar of soap. Bars that have partially gone through gel phase are often easily pointed out. See the bottom right photo of Tres Leches, a triple milk soap that had prominent visible gel phase when cut.
Gel phase is dark, literally, you can see a batch entering gel phase. Notice the long light loaf mold photos, we see it crack (so we know it's getting hot) and then gel phase is visible almost up to the edges of the mold. Some soapers chill their soap in an effort to prevent gel phase, resulting in a lighter colored soap. This soaper doesn't care, gel or no gel, doesn't matter - either way we still get soap. Growing up, we always incubated the soap in towels after it was poured into the molds to encourage full gel phase. 24-48 hours to incubate, then time to cut. After being cut they're off to the curing racks for a minimum of 4 - 8 weeks to cure. Sometimes soap is ready in as little as a month, and some soaps have cured for the better part of a year. There is no magic ingredient or process to hurry cure time, sometimes a batch I've done dozens of times before takes an extra long time to cure this time around. Soap making is a patient process that includes a lot of planning ahead to allow time for the process.
As soap cures, it strives to equalize with the moisture percentage in the air around it. Thus as soap cures, it loses moisture - becoming harder, resulting in a longer lasting bar in your shower. Cold and hot process soaps are NEVER packaged in cellophane or airtight containers for this reason. If you see soap sold in plastic wrap or bags, that's a dead giveaway that it's melt and pour aka box mix soap, not made from scratch. (remind me to do a future blog about the different soap making methods!)
The longer soap cures the more gentle the pH becomes, making it ideal for sensitive skin, so I soap in small batches allowing an average of 12 weeks to cure each batch. Alas.... thanks for reading! I blogged twice in a day, that's a first, I must have had a lot to say!
Stay tuned for the upcoming seasonal batches, and mark your calendars for their release dates.
Autumn release date is Sept. 1st
Christmas and Winter release date is Nov. 1st
Everything this year is very small batches so if you see it, get it. Here's a sneak peek of what's coming:
Lumps of Coal and more...........