Murder by Mocha is the 10th book in The Coffee House Mysteries by Cleo Coyle (the pen name for the wife/husband writing team of Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini). It's one of my favorite series. I love the voice of the narrator, Clare Cosi, the characters, the recipes (even though I don't cook), the pacing, the plots—and especially that it's set in New York City.
The rule of thumb in cozies is that they're set in small towns, but anybody who lives in NYC will tell you that each neighborhood is like a small town onto itself.
Clare owns the Village Blend Coffee House in Greenwich Village and it's a gathering place for the 'usual suspects' of a hood like that—artists, writers, dancers and actors auditioning for roles as munchkins.
Clare and Co serve up fabulous coffee drinks and delectable desserts, so when I was making this soap (after I'd just finished reading Murder by Mocha), I thought why not 'mocha-up' my regular coffee soap?
Coffee soap is great for removing odors from your hands after chopping up onions. It's also a terrific way to wake yourself up in the morning shower.
The first layer (the darkest one) of my Murder by Mocha Soap is coffee soap that I rebatched using my (relatively) painless re-batching method (I didn't invent the method by the way, but I am going to share it in a future post) and some chocolate chai rice milk.
The lighter layer is a fresh batch of coffee/mocha soap with scraps of old coffee soap, coffee grounds and cocoa powder thrown in.
Here's my recipe for basic coffee soap. I don't always add fragrance or essential oils—I love that great coffee smell, but vanilla, cardamom and citruses blend well.
(makes 28 oz of soap with 7% superfat)
2 oz castor oil
4 oz coconut oil (76 degrees)
7 oz olive oil pomace (infused with coffee grounds for six-eight weeks)
4 oz palm kernel oil
3 oz cocoa butter
7 oz lard
10.45 oz of strong, cold coffee
3.8 oz lye
Make it mocha with 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
Make it scrubby with ½ oz coffee grounds (I use the grounds I strain from the olive oil infusion)
Put on your goggles and your gloves! Carefully add the lye to the cold coffee (NEVER THE OTHER WAY AROUND) and mix until all the lye is completely dissolved. Set aside in a safe place and allow to cool while you melt the oils, butter and fats.
I like to melt all the oils first (I use a crock pot), then I melt the cocoa butter. Then I switch off the heat, add a small amount of room temperature lard, let it melt, then add some more and so on. You always want to melt lard with a low temperature to avoid a piggy smell.
When both the oils and the lye/water are about 120 degrees Fahrenheit, slowly add the lye/coffee to the oils and mix with a stick blender.
When the mixture reaches light trace, add the dissolved coffee grounds and cocoa power (and fragrance or essential oils) and mix thoroughly. Pour into your mold and give it a few careful bangs to get out any air bubbles. Insulate for 24 to 48 hours.
When the soap is hard, unmold, cut and let it cure in a well-ventilated area for 4 to 6 weeks.