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Book Review - Soap Making It Enjoying It


    Date : 1998-02-21

    Title: Soap Making It Enjoying It
    Author: Ann Bramson
    ISBN: 0-911104-57-7
    Published date: 1975
    Publisher: Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
    Number of pages: 119
    Recommended: Yes.

    As opinions go: everyone has one. Regarding this book by Ann Bramson the following is my opinion.

    This book was originally published in 1972, making it the oldest "still in print" book decicated to soapmaking. It is considered the "bible" of soapmaking and for good reason.

    She uses temperatures that are lower than we regularly use. This isn't bad unless the soap never heats up and therefore gets an extra thick layer of soda ash. Nothing worse is going to happen. When making smaller batches than she does, hers are about 5-1/3 lbs, the higher temperatures are needed because the soap cools too quickly.

    A few things I argee with:

    • Weigh everything, even your water. I use fluid ounces for water (see below) but I know my scale is very accurate. If your scale may be off weighing your water can help to make sure it is the correct ratio.
    • I like her comments on thermometers (using one or two).
    • To verify tracing has been achieved (especially when the mix is water thin) I will wait a few minutes like she suggests. I just don't do the whiskey shot glass test.
    • The section on Bad Batches (page 52) is worth reading each time soap is made until you have the paragraphs memorized.
    • I enjoyed reading the old soap ads. Her section on how soap has evolved in the American market was fun to read.
    • Using soap on page 88 is a great recommendation.
    • With current ideas of adding fresh fruits and veggies to soap I loved her "don't do it" information on page 93.

    A few things I disagree with:

    • using wooden spoons (they can splinter into your batch)
    • using cookingpots for soap too (especially enamel)
    • goggles? She mentions nothing about using goggles to protect your eyes. Please wear them!!!
    • Water weighs the same in ounces as it is in fluid ounces.
    • If you have children around never make your lye in advance. If you can make it in advance, then label it VERY CLEARY! This solution will look just like water and accidents should be prevented.
    • Mixing your lye solution. Never put water in your lye, put the lye in your water. She does this backwards. No MSDS would recommend this for lye because of the potential reaction. It can violently boil out of your container.
    • Adding lye solution to the oils does not have to be done slowly, the goal is to NOT splash. The pace in which lye is added is for safety only.
    • Don't worry about exact temperatures. Soap should be fun, not tedious. There are a few fats that require temperatures less than 120 F but these are the exceptions and not the rule.
    • Don't worry about stirring constantly. A quick trip to the bathroom is not going to hurt your soap. If children are around get another adult to watch and protect the soap area from the little curious creatures. Again, safety is no accident.
    • Go ahead! Scrape the sides of your pan.
    • Soap which has traced does not get as thick as split pea soap. It can be very thin.
    • Go ahead and peek while the soap is in the mold. You won't learn if you can't see what is going on.
    • Cut the soap into bars as soon as you can. Waiting for the soap to cure or age may make it impossible to cut. We cut when the soap is removed from the mold.

    This book is recommended. Don't take everything as gospel, but you can learn from her book.

    Double check her recipes on the Lye Calculator. They can be a bit fat heavy especially when using her superfatting ideas.