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Friday, 8 October 2010

Bishop's Balm Soap

This is one of my soap making recipes inspired by the medieval monks who used comfrey in their healing poultices. It is not likely that they would have used it in soap, or sunflower oil and they certainly would not know about coconut oil but the beeswax in this recipe helps keep the bar nice and hard and the sunflower adds a lightness to the lather. When I first made this soap back in 2003 I scented it with two parts Bergamot to one part Lavender - you can, of course, choose whichever scent combinations you desire - or leave it unscented, as you wish.


Coconut oil = 300grams

Palm oil = 250grams

Sunflower = 350grams

Beeswax = 50grams

Green Comfrey Oil = 25grams

Water = 300grams

Sodium Hydroxide = 134grams

Don't forget the basic safety instructions.

Follow instructions for making the basic beginners soap with the following additions: Melt the bees wax with the base oils and then let the oils cool to about 45 degrees celcius or at least until the mixture becomes a bit thick and soupy. The bees wax in this soap helps speed up the rate of trace, however the sunflower oil takes longer than olive to come to trace so you may find the two cancel each other out and the mixture will behave itself - however be prepared to work fast just in case!

The Comfrey oil should be added to the soap at trace, just before pouring into the mould. There is a concern in soap making recipes about using too high a percentage of sunflower oil, since sunflower oil is prone to early rancidity - I never had any problems with this particular recipe but then I can't say for sure since it was always used well before the two years from manufacture date.

If you would like to add essential oils to this recipe then do feel free to experiment with blends or single oils that you think would be appropriate. On average I would add 2% of the total of the base oils in the soap making recipe as fragrance or essential oil. Be guided by your nose though, if the essential oil you choose is very strong then you may wish to add less. For this recipe that means 19grams - although not entirely accurate I would use a 20ml bottle of essential oil or blend to a total of 20ml in a small measuring container.

To Vary

Continuing the trend for medieval inspired soap (I have a whole load of these, our village used to have an abbey, sadly one of the abbeys and monasteries abolished by Henry VIII, which celebrated it's millenium in 2005 - for this event I created a number of medieval-styled soaps)

Take the same recipe and blend with the soap mixture a heaped tablespoon of green or yellow clay. Don't hang about before getting this into the mould though... it gets thick quite quickly! A sprinkling of ground olive stones, or powdered strawberry seeds will give this soap a gritty dirt-busting texture - but remember less is more in this instance... only a teaspoonful or less is required for this quantity of soap.

This Oxford Gargoyle soap comes from a specially commissioned silicone mould. It's a one-off which cost quite a bit at the time but makes wonderful gifts.

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