Modern beekeepers commonly wonder what to do with all the beeswax their hives produce. Thankfully, the possibilities are endless, from holistic and decorative uses to various homemade health and beauty products. Learn how to make beautiful, useful gifts with Petra Ahnert’s book, Beeswax Alchemy (Quarry Books, 2015). This excerpt offers a recipe for Honey and Beeswax Soap.
You can purchase this book from the Mother Earth Living store: Beeswax Alchemy.
Once basic soap-making skills have been mastered, it’s time to add some goodies such as beeswax and honey. The beeswax will make a harder bar and the honey will boost lather and provide some moisturizing benefits.
Note: You will know you are at the trace stage when you pull the immersion blender out of the soap mixture and it leaves a visible trail in the top of the soap. I like to take my soap to a medium to heavy trace, which is almost the consistency of a soft pudding. Depending on the temperature of the oil and lye and the speed of the immersion blender, the actual mixing portion should not take that long, maybe five to 10 minutes.
• 358 grams olive oil (44.8 percent)
• 225 grams coconut oil at 76 degrees (28.1 percent)
• 177 grams palm oil (22.2 percent)
• 32 grams castor oil (4 percent)
• 7.2 grams beeswax (0.9 percent)
• 9 ounces distilled water, divided
• 111 grams lye (NaOH—sodium hydroxide)
• 1 tablespoon honey
• 2 tablespoons fragrance (if desired)
• Disposable paper bowl
• Container for lye
• Large plastic spoon or high heat spatula
• Stainless-steel pot or microwave-safe container for oils
• Stainless-steel whisk or immersion blender
• Digital scale
• Mold (silicone bread loaf pan preferred, but any mold will do)
• Freezer paper to line mold
1. Gather all the ingredients together and arrange them on the table in the order in which they appear in the recipe.
2. Always make the lye solution first, as it requires cooling time. Measure the lye into a disposable paper bowl and set aside.
3. Measure out 5 ounces distilled water and pour into the lye-safe container. Place the container on heat resistant surface and add the dry lye crystals to the water (never the other way around). Stir until all the lye is completely dissolved. Set the lye mixture aside to cool.
4. In a microwave-safe container, add the honey to the remaining 4 ounces water and stir to incorporate. Microwave for a couple of seconds at a time until the honey is completely dissolved. Set aside.
5. Prepare the mold, lining with freezer paper with the shiny side face up.
6. Heat all of the solid oils and beeswax in a stainless steel pot on the stove top or in a microwave-safe container in the microwave. Once melted, pour the melted solid oils into the mixing container and add the liquid oils, stirring well to ensure it is all mixed.
7. Check the temperature of both the lye and the oils. To keep the beeswax from hardening, the ideal temperature of the oils will need to be around 120 degrees. The goal is to have the lye right around that temperature as well.
8. Add the reserved honey water to the lye water. It will probably turn colors; mine usually turns some sort of pinkish hue. That’s normal.
9. Pour the lye water into the oils and mix with the immersion blender. Once it is emulsified, but not yet at trace, add the fragrance if desired. Keep mixing until it gets to “trace.’’ For this soap, I recommend mixing until it is a light to medium trace. Once trace is achieved, work quickly to get the soap into the mold, as it may solidify quickly.
10. Pour the soap batter into the prepared mold, taking care to scrape all of the soap residue out of the pot. Tap the soap mold on the counter a couple of times to remove any air pockets. Smooth out the top and cover the mold with a piece of cardboard to hold in some of the heat.
Note: When using honey, beeswax, or any kind of milk, these ingredients can cause the soap to get hotter than normal and it may not be necessary to cover the mold.
11. After about twenty-four hours, the soap should be cool, relatively hard, and ready to unmold and slice. If it still seems a bit soft, leave it in the mold and check it again after another day or so. Once the soap seems hard enough, cut it into individual bars. Place the cut bars on freezer paper with space between them and set aside for about a month to dry and cure, rotating them occasionally so that all sides dry evenly.
12. I like to store my soaps in a cool dry place until needed. As they age, they will continue to lose water, making them longer lasting in the shower and more mild, so older soaps are a good thing to have around. If they are to be given as gifts, a paper cigar band, paper box, or muslin bag are best for packaging, since they allow the soap to breathe. Makes about eight 4-ounce bars.
Find more recipes and information in The Ancient History of Beeswax.
Reprinted with permission from Beeswax Alchemy by Petra Ahnert (Quarry Books, 2015). It may not be reproduced for any other use without permission.
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