Veggie Black Walnut and Coffee Soap

Check out the cool mold my mom sent me.  They’re pretty hugenormous, about 345 grams, full, compared to a roughly hundred gram regular bar of soap.  Today, I don’t have a ton of tallow hanging around.  Whose house is this, anyway?  Since I’m on a vegetable soap kick this weekend, I’m going to adapt the black walnut soap to an all vegetable, palm-free bar using coconut oil and olive oil.  Probably, it’s going to be a pretty drying bar, but given that these black walnut soaps are for when you really want to scrub, it’s a good application for coconut.

I love coffee.  I love the smell, the taste, the effects of this glorious substance.  So today, I dumped a heaping soup spoon of it into the oils as they’re melting in the crock pot, and then added about a half teaspoon of ground clove, for good measure.  We’ll let that infuse a while.  I know that it will add more texture to this already scrubby bar, but I’m hoping that it will also smell like pure joy in a morning shower.  I’m also going to use a bit of vanilla scent, just a bit, to lighten it up a bit.

  • 340 g coconut oil (76F)
  • 477 g olive oil
  • 62 g castor oil
  • 126 g lye
  • 290 g water
  • 2 Tbsp black walnut powder after trace

There is nothing special about the funny numbers in this recipe.  I was close to the bottom of the container of olive and coconut oils and used whatever was left in them.  We’re using quantities fairly reminiscent of the other walnut soap.

Castor oil is a very unique oil.  Its primary fatty acid is called ricinoleic acid.  It’s a hydroxylated fatty acid, which unique in vegetable oils. It’s an important characteristic, for one, because it prevents the formation of peroxides, which reduce shelf life.  That hydroxyl group is available for lots of reactions which make castor oil commercially very important.  It has a high viscosity,  this is the same castor oil that goes in a two-stroke dirt bike.  It goes in coatings and paints and can be made into biodegradable packaging.  It also grows on pretty marginal land and is one of the oldest cultivated plants.  It’s just one of the niftiest oils.

For us, it makes sodium ricinoleate (remember that soap is a salt of fat).  The shape of that molecule lends itself to stable, sturdy lather for our soap.  It won’t help make giant bubbles, so we use the other oils for that, but it will help those bubbles by providing a kind of mortar of rich, steady bubbles to keep the lather together.  Too much castor will keep a bar from hardening and will be sticky.  Even at only about 2-3% of the oils in a batch, the impact of castor oil is noticeable.  In this recipe, we’re at about 7%, which I think is a pretty sweet spot.

The final product could use some work – I think this mold would work way better if I did a batch of cold process soap.  When it’s a bit harder, I’ll do some carving to get the face right.

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