Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Candy Continued

Whew! It's been a heckuva day. You know those little stars I posted earlier? In the molds?

Remember also what I said about soap, cleaning, keeping food and soap separate?

Thankfully, I taste tested one of those stars before using them in any capacity. When you are a soaper in the kitchen, you learn to do this quite often.

Well, I had thought that I hadn't used that mold for soap. Oh boy. Was I ever wrong. BLECH!! Oh, horrible little star! Why did you have to look so delicious?

As I pawed through my cupboards, I realised I also didn't have a nifty candy mold. Huh. Thought I did. Maybe I lent it out. Either way, I lined up my little cast of characters, all in a row - yummy middles waiting to be enrobed in chocolate:

We have salted caramel, chocolate cinnamon marzipan, anise marzipan, and peppermint marzipan. That's about all the dickens I felt getting up to for today.

Anyway, as I said, I didn't have a candy mold. Curious. So I decided to take a trip down to the nearest JoAnn and see what I could find.

I found nothing. They had some seasonal molds and cookie cutters, but nothing I wanted. So I picked up various craft supplies for starting on holiday gift-making, and went next door to the drugstore, since I needed some stuff there anyway.

And of course they had nothing. So I drove back up the hill to Fred Meyer - I've seen some Wilton stuff there.

NOTHING! They had nothing I needed! They had a couple Wilton molds, but they were far too big for chocolates. They had Easter cookie cutters. Sigh. But they had a few other things I needed for making a Christmas gift or two, so I gathered those up, and decided to buy a mini-muffin pan while I was there. I had an idea.

Also, I've always wanted to use these:

I wash my new pan, then line it.

So cute! I then melt a little milk chocolate and drip a bit into the bottoms of the cups - not even a quarter full. Then I drop a little ball of marzipan into each one.

I put a star shaped cookie cutter - new out of the box! Never used for soap! - onto some waxed paper and fill it with the leftover milk chocolate, just because. Mmm. Milky star.

Then, because I am reckless and have no refined tastes, I melt some of my 60% cocoa chips and cover the marzipan sitting in milk chocolate. I do it because gosh darn it, it feels good and I like chocolate!

I melt more milk chocolate, then drop a sticky sphere of caramel into it. I then cover that in more milk chocolate. I then stick the whole tray into the freezer for about five minutes - that caramel in particular just starts drooling away if I don't keep it cold.

Here is one of the two-toned candies:

Looks promising. CHOMP!

Not bad! Not the greatest, but not too darn bad! (Hey, that's what I'm all about, folks, unrefined, crude honesty. I'm a soaper, not a gourmand!) Now, what about that caramel stuff?

Oh, dear. Well, I don't about you, but I think this looks promising. CHOMP!

Oh, my. It is heaven in a mini-muffin cup. The caramel just drips out like a Caramilk bar. Oh! That's it! It's a caramilk cup! Except it's salty caramel. Who cares?! It's great!

So there you have it. Go forth and make your own good but not great candy! As long as you're having fun, it hardly matters.


The OTHER Fun in the Kitchen

Yeah, you know what I'm getting at. That naughty thing we all so love, that powerful urge we try to resist, but just can't stop ourselves...

Baking. Or, as the case is today, candy making.

Mmm. Sweet, sweet, candy making.

I do sometimes like to take a little break from making soaps, clean up my area really well (while soap is clean, I don't like to add SOAPY flavour to my goodies!), and hit the pots.

You can see in the background last weeks finished project: jam and fruit butter! They all turned out so delicious. It was my first attempt and they turned out lovely. I will tie ribbons around these and give them out to family members at Christmastime.

Today I am attempting to make some lovely chocolates of assorted flavours. I have some anise oil, I have powdered cinnamon, coconut, coffee, green tea, scharffen berger cocoa, ground lavender, and some cookie cutters and ice cube molds. I also have a few handy bags of assorted Ghirardelli chips. I prefer Guittard, but Ghirardelli is still quite good. I really wanted to try the new Dagoba chocolate I saw recently at one of the nearby Town & Country Markets, but the one I stopped in at on the way home didn't have any.

I also grabbed a box of almond paste to make a marzipan. Mmmm.

I melted down some sugar to make a soft caramel. I slowly got it to a nice, rich amber colour, then added some heavy cream and sea salt. The mixture started bubbling up so quickly, I reached for my spoon and stupidly forgot to pull on an oven mitt. Folks, steam is hot and can burn. The entire side of my right hand is now stinging from that little mistake. I now return you to your regular grade 2 lessons.

The whole mixture is quite soft, and now that it has cooled some, I have made a rather large and yummy ball of caramel. Check it out!

Closer! See how shiny! You can even see me pointing the camera in it:

The extra-sharp and super-nerdy among you might even recognise the rather abstract and distorted reflection of the "OMG Pwnies!" shirt I'm wearing.

I'm letting my chocolate shapes set up, then I think I will slice them and embed them into the tops of some filled candy.

I'll keep you posted...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

It's Too Hot

Record highs, here in Seattle. It's too hot and sticky for me to even think about making soap. Anything that involves heat or even moving around too much. I'm planted in front of my fan until that mean, mean sun decides to go away! >:(

Thankfully, a nice cold bath is just the trick in this summer heat, and I keep a decent stock of Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey soaps to soothe my tired muscles. And the scent is so calming and therapeutic!

I've recently obtained some dendritic salt to mix with my epsom salt recipes, and I wonder about making aromatherapy bath salts... the Japanese make an interesting menthol/lemon combo I'd like to try to formulate. I have menthol and lemon extracts - I should test it out and see just how "cooling" this formulation is!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sugar Scrubs and Whipped Shea!

My camera. It's still broken. It's a sad thing. I do, however, have a DSi, which doesn't take the greatest pictures, but should get the point across:

First, brown sugar scrub. Why brown sugar scrub? It's exfoliating and skin softening. I like using sugar more than salt - mostly because I'm a bit clumsy and tend to get little papercuts or nicks and dings on my hands throughout a day's work. I am but a humble labourer, and my day job really roughs my hands up. How, people ask me, do I keep them ever-so-soft and hydrated? Oh, I've got all sorts of little secrets. ;) Here is one:

1 cup organic brown sugar
1/2 cup sweet almond oil
A few drops of Vitamin E
A couple of drips of Optiphen - a paraben-free preservative
Fragrance oil of your choice - I like using a bit of Pumpkin and Vanilla, and then I call the whole thing "Sugar & Spice Scrub" - mmmmm!

This one is so easy: mix all together and enjoy! I press the mix into 3oz jars - though the jars I like the most for this have been discontinued (shown in the picture), and I am switching out as of today to bigger, 8oz jars.

I wouldn't use this much more than once a week or so, it's quite a rigorous exfoliation. Give your hands a good scrub, then gently rinse with lukewarm water and pat dry with a clean towel. Let your hands rest for about ten minutes before topping off with a moisturizer.

Now, my next little secret, it's a bit more difficult, but really not that bad: Whipped Shea.

7 parts Shea Butter
2 parts Pistachio Butter
2 parts Jojoba Oil
A few drops Vitamin E
A few drops Liquid Silk
A few drops Glycerin
2 parts DryFlo (Modified Corn Starch)
A couple drops of Optiphen
Barely any fragrance oil

What you want to do with this stuff is to get it aerated. You'll need a good mixer - better if you have a whisk attachment. Put your butters and oils together in a metal bowl, blend them together, then put the bowl into the freezer for about five minutes. Take it out, then beat it for two minutes or so with the blender. Keep an eye on it, and make sure it all gets mixed well. Put the bowl back into the freezer for five more minutes. Take out and start beating it again, this time, drizzling the glycerin into the mix, the optiphen, and then slowly adding the DryFlo. The DryFlo helps cut back on the greasiness of the product. Keep in mind, this is a heavy moisturizer, so you're never going to quite get it to "lotion" consistency. That's not the point of this awesome stuff! You can add your fragrance oil at this point (or none, but I like to gently cover the nutty smell of the pistachio just a little bit, otherwise it has an "odd" smell). Once you've got all the ingredients in the bowl, start to really beat the stuff - turn up the speed a bit, and get it all. Six or seven minutes should get it all aerated nicely. Alright, you know what's coming: bung it back into the freezer again for five more minutes. Take it back out and whip it a little more. Two more minutes should finish it up.

Now you have a nice, fluffy bowl of moisturizer. I spoon it into 2oz white jars then finish it off with a little flourish - it almost looks edible. Ugh. Why do I make such delicious looking products? Anyway, just a little of this stuff goes a very long way. This is the moisturizer you want to use on your elbows, knees, knuckles, any rough spots. I find it better to use a little at the end of the day, or whenever you're ready to rest and relax. It's also a lovely moisturizer to spread thinly on your hands, pop on a pair of cotton gloves and go to bed.

Next post: cuticle cream, and whipped lip gloss!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Soap Queen teaches Candy Soap!

I am trying this out as I type this - my white base is setting in the round molds. I can't wait to see how they turn out - they are just adorable!

In the meantime, I'm checking out the farmer's market this weekend - I hope to have some adorable candy soaps to add to my stock! Anne Marie is my soaping hero - I found her Brambleberry website back when I was first beginning to look for more quality ingredients for my soaps. They carry the best stuff ever! From the day I got my first box of goodies from Brambleberry, I knew I had stumbled into something good. There's ALWAYS a free sample tucked inside! It was this practice that inspired me to do the same thing with my shipments - always include a free sample. And my invoice? Handwritten "thank you"s on every single one. I really do think that's pretty special.

When my business started to pick up, and I wanted to make sure everything I did was aboveboard, insured, and all that fun stuff, I stumbled across an extremely informative and helpful article all about it, which turned out to be written by: Anne Marie! Wow, I thought. She's super smart, too. I eventually started clicking every link on the Brambleberry page, and found invaluable resources on her blog, Soap Queen.

She's just amazing. I wish I could work at Brambleberry, alas; they're about two hours away from me. *dreamy sigh* To immerse myself in soap knowledge and products is the very idea of heaven to me.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Camera is broken!

I'm working hard on getting my camera fixed - what good is a soap blog without the pretty pictures?

In the meantime, I discovered something weird about soap. I first read about it while browsing Snopes, one of my favourite time-wasting-while-still-learning-something websites. Now, clicking the link will take you straight to the article, and it is worthy to note that the status of this urban legend is "undetermined". So what I am about to relate is purely anecdotal, and as we all know - say with me out loud, kids - the plural of anecdote is NOT DATA! With that in mind, this totally worked for me.

I have had problems with my legs cramping up at night - I just barely wake up, get in a good, long stretch - only to wake in sudden, horrible pain as I feel a muscle pull out of place. It takes every ounce of my strength not to scream loudly and startle my peacefully sleeping husband! And over the years, I've tried everything. Everything! My father told me to eat a banana before bed (potassium solution). Nope. I exercise regularly, and stretch before bedtime. ARGH! Still no. I increased my water intake. Nope, but I have to get up to pee more. Sometimes with a throbbing leg. And then, one day, I read the Snopes article.

I have lots of extra soap laying around - some failed experiments, some mutant shapes, some funky scents gone wrong, some layers not properly adhered and fallen apart. I have a huge basket full of these next to the bathroom door. My husband happily uses these - we've obviously never had to purchase soap for the past couple of years! It was from this basket that I decided to try an experiment.

I took a bar and put it at the end of the bed, down by my feet. Somewhere I wouldn't kick it too much. However, when I slipped into bed that first night, I kind of kicked for it, making sure it was still there. How was this supposed to work, anyway? Did I need to make contact with it? Should it be between my knees or something? Maybe I'm just supposed to ignore it? Eventually, I quit fussing over it and went to sleep. I woke up the first morning with no leg cramps and toes that smelled like sugared walnuts. A good start.

Now, usually, I get these cramps once or twice a week. It's terrible. But since I started sleeping with soap in my bedsheets, I haven't had a single cramp. I still kick around quite a bit (my husband thinks I've got restless leg syndrome, and I think it's just a fancy name for restless, period), but I no longer cramp up. It could be a placebo. A placebo stronger than a banana before bed.

But I like it. It works for me. My sheets smell nice.

But keep in mind, Vick's Vapo Rub on the bottom of my feet has eliminated my nighttime cough last time I had a cold, too. Perhaps my brain is easily placated. :)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Bath Therapy Oil "Beads"

As promised, here is how to make the Tubbles Bubbles Bath Therapy Oil Beads - whew! That's a mouthful.

Don't eat them. They'd taste gross.

Here is our cast of characters:

Pictured here is a double 00 capsule-filler tray (make sure your capsule size matches your tray size!), double 00 gelatin caps (looking faded, I just re-ordered some fresh new bags from a shop on Amazon, put a rush on it, and it was due to arrive five days ago - that's what I get for paying extra, I suppose), Grapeseed Oil (this is not my usual brand, this is my cooking brand, but the type I normally use is all beat up and the label is faded), Sweet Almond Oil, a pipette, toothpicks for adding the colourant, and - my secret weapon - Wilton's Candy Melt OIL BASED colourant!

All the other colours I have in my arsenal are glycerin or straight up water based. They don't mix with oil. Since Wilton's stuff is safe to consume (it's for candy!), and you only use the most teensy of droplets to colour a whole batch, this has been the perfect solution. I had a vision when I first started making these of brightly-coloured, pill-shaped bath oil beads. Of course, I had at first wanted to make those kind you see in every bath gift basket at the drug store, or the kind you buy that are all pearly and spherical. Looking into it, it seemed an expensive investment. Still, I didn't think that should leave those of us who love to handcraft our goodies out of the loop. The double 00 caplets are quite inexpensive, and you get a lot. The capsule filler tray can make 50 caps at a time, and it's very easy to use!

First off, grab yourself a handful of about 50 gel caps, uncap them, and set the longer half into the capsule filler tray. This device is so ridiculously simple to use - but I've still screwed up using it by placing the tray upside down. Heh. Still, I didn't lose anything, as upon removing the top tray, they all stood obediently at attention - I just had to watch that my butterfingers didn't move them around too much while I capped them off the hard way. Also, and this is IMPORTANT: Make sure there is no water in or around your capsule filler! If you washed it recently, let it dry FULLY before adding the gel caps. The tiniest driplet of water will give you little mutant gel caps - or they will just outright dissolve or be mushy and unstable. I've had little wee dewdrops on my filler before, and came out with really warty oil beads. They were kind of hilarious. My husband happily used them. An occasional one or two mixed in with a regular batch won't offend anyone, I'm sure, but still. You'd mostly end up with unusable beads.

Using a small plastic bowl, I throw in approximately 2 tbsp of grapeseed oil, and 1 tbsp of sweet almond oil. Add the fragrance of your choice. I like to add a colour that corresponds with the fragrance I've used, but do your own thing. Go ahead and weird people out with that bright lime green that smells like a strawberry if you feel like it. [Bob Ross]It's your own world.[/Bob]

To add the colourant - this is oil based, it is strong. I use a toothpick to dip into the colourant, then slowly and carefully add to my little puddle of oil mix. You might even find the drop on the end is too much as you stir - keep a handful of toothpicks so you can pull out the colour-soaked one if you have to. Keep some folded-up paper towel handy and land your used toothpicks on them. This stuff tints up very quickly! Look at these:

Note the two shades of pink - one light, one dark. The dark one was the same colourant used to make the lighter pink - it was closer to two toothpick drips instead of one. The lighter shade was obtained by just barely letting a full drip get into the oil mix. (The blue, for your reference, is just one drip).

Now, once you've got your oil, fragrance, and colour mixed into your container, use a pipette to load up and squirt into the individual capsules in the capsule filler. You'll be able to see how much is needed, and you'll get a feel for it as you go. Don't worry if you spill any - you'll need to wipe everything up at the end, anyway.

After you've filled them all, drop down the top level of the filler, exposing the top rims of the gel caps just filled. Cap them all off with the caps you removed earlier; you'll feel and/or hear the little click that means the cap is on nice and tight.

I lay the finished ones on a clean, dry towel, and when I'm done removing them all from the capsule filler, I give them a very gentle rub down to make sure they're not too greasy on the outside. They will still be a little bit, but you can minimize it greatly by taking this extra step.

Package them up and you're ready to go! I like to combine two to three different scent/colour combos for prettiness and aromatherapy. Go ahead! Try it out! It's great fun, and they make great gifts!