Big John is a regular customer at Leaves of Grass. He's a scary looking guy.
Six feet tall with shoulders wider than the Hudson River and nearly every inch of his body is tattooed with skulls and daggers and devils. He drives a huge, loud Harley and rides with a bike gang called Terror on Wheels.
He also loves Victorian poetry, spends every Saturday reading to blind children and raises bees in his rooftop hives in Edison, NJ.
A few weeks ago he gave me a bunch of his honey from his hives.
I love making soap with honey. It gives the lather a fluffy, silky quality. And honey is loaded with antioxidants and has hygroscopic properties—meaning it draws moisture from the air to your skin.
I’ve always found my skin is softer after using soap made with honey. It’s dewy and rejuvenated.
I immediately got to work with a few batches and decided to make the soap even more luxurious by adding milk.
Soap making with milk and honey can be tricky. Both are high in sugars—which can cause overheating and a big, stinky mess. The secret is to soap cool. And I cheated a little by using powdered milk.
Here’s my recipe and how-to. There’s a water reduction in this recipe—by three ounces—although those three ounces eventually get back in when you add the honey and milk mixtures.
If you alter the recipe in any way, be sure to run you version through a soap calculator like SoapCalc.
Milk and Honey Soap
for about 3 pounds
2 ounces castor oil
8 ounces coconut oil, 76 degree
11 ounces olive oil
2 ounces sunflower oil
7 ounces (sustainable) palm oil
2 ounces cocoa butter
1.5 ounces of honey
5 tablespoons of powdered milk
9.16 ounces of water
4.49 ounces of lye
Optional: 1 ounces essential oil or fragrance oil
Prep Stuff: (With goggles and gloves on, of course and all pets, kids and other distractions far, far away).
1. Weigh out the water and lye. Slowly add the lye to the water (NEVER the other way around) and set aside to cool to about 75 to 80 degrees. I popped my in an ice bath.
2. Dissolve 1.5 ounces of honey in 1.5 ounces of hot water. Give a whirl with the stick blender if you want. Set aside to cool.
3. Dissolve 5 tablespoons of powdered milk in 1.5 ounces of hot water. Use a stick blender or frother to get out all the lumps. Set aside to cool.
4. Prepare your molds. I used 2 quart-sized orange juice cartons.
5. Weigh and melt your coconut oil, palm oil and cocoa butter.
6. Add the castor oil, olive oil and sunflower oil to the melted oils and let cool to about 75-80 degrees.
7. Slowly add the lye solution to the oils and stick blend to a light trace.
8. Split the batch into two equal parts.
9. Add the dissolved honey to one part and the dissolved milk to the other. Stick blend to fully incorporate. You’ll notice the part with honey will quickly darken. That’s from the sugars. The milk part should stay light.
10. Add essential oil or fragrance oil if desired. The honey on its own will give a lovely, light scent to your finished bars.
11. Pour the batter into molds, alternating between honey and milk
12. Tamp down the molds to get out any air bubbles.
13. DO NOT INSULATE! The honey could still overheat.
14. Unmold after 24 hours, cut and cure as usual.
In this batch, I didn’t separate the batter before I added the milk and honey and I used some dragon’s blood fragrance oil that further darkened the batter. That’s a sprinkling of powdered oatmeal on the top.
Big John will probably be coming into Leaves of Grass sometime this week to pick up his special order of Keats. He’ll get an added bonus of some milk and honey soap. Perfect for washing all those tattoos.