I hope you all had a lovely Easter weekend! We just returned from spending the weekend in Whistler, BC, which is a lovely little resort village nestled at the base of the Blackcomb and Whistler mountains, near Vancouver, BC. You may have heard of Whistler, as the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics were hosted here:
Even though we have had a relatively mild winter in BC, the skiing and snowboarding were still amazing high up in the mountain. Admittedly, I am not as much of an outdoors enthusiast as my husband and kids, but I really appreciated the views of the snow-covered mountains, the cozy feeling of the village, and the foodie aspect along with the shopping that the village offered. Speaking of food, I stumbled upon this amazing bakery called Purebread:
I wanted to pitch a tent and camp outside their door all day and night. I cannot say enough good things about their rustic but elegant cakes, breads, and pastries; Raspberry Chocolate Loaf, Hazelnut Fig Bread, Salted Caramel Bar, Morning Glory (muffin? croissant? whatever it was, it was amazing!), Lavender Earl Grey Scone, Berries and Cream Puff, Brown Sugar Sponge Cake, etc. I seriously wanted to order one of everything, and I am convinced it is quite possibly the best bakery on this entire planet. Although, my son reminded me I have not been to Paris. Touché, son.
My daughter really loved the Lucia Gelato, and of course you can’t go there without treating yourself to a Beavertail pastry, which seems to be a staple of the Canadian ski slopes! Cows ice cream was my husband and sons’ favorite. We also had an amazing burger with fresh-cut fries at Boomburger. And even though it’s a small village, there are 3 Starbucks there!
How does this all tie into soap making? Well, while I was there, I noticed that many of the gift shops featured ice wine gifts; ice wine tea, truffles, cookies, syrup, etc. Now, I admittedly am not a wine connoisseur, and I have never heard of ice wine before, so I had to research it. It turns out that ice wine is a type is a dessert wine that is produced from grapes that have been collected while they are frozen on the vine. Because the water in the grapes is frozen, this allows for a more concentrated grape juice to be squeezed from the frozen grapes. Ice wine harvesting is fussy - the frozen grapes must be picked on the first morning that it is cold enough, and the whole crop needs to be picked within a few hours! This results in a smaller amount but more concentrated and very sweet wine; needless to say, it is also pricier than traditional wine because of the risk and smaller yield associated with this type of harvesting.
Naturally, my thoughts turned to using ice wine in soap! I have wanted to try wine in soap for a while, and thought it would be fun to try an Ice Wine soap inspired by our trip to Whistler.
Seeing as I was only using this ice wine in soap, I chose the least expensive bottle that I could find, which was this bottle of 2011 bottle of merlot ice wine from the Okanagan Valley in BC:
To prepare the wine for soap making, you need to boil some of the alcohol out first, as this will help you avoid any heat volcanoes during and after your soap making. To do this, you need to simmer your wine on low for about 15 minutes (which should remove about 60% of the alcohol content). Studies have demonstrated that simmering, even for long periods, will reduce some, but not all of the alcohol*.
Unfortunately, I got distracted and ended up simmering mine for much longer than I wanted too - about 30 minutes, and I was left with a very sticky and condensed syrupy mixture. My poor kids were convinced I had started a brewery in our kitchen - the wine aroma was so strong! I ended up reconstituting the syrup with some water to make it thinner and then let it cool overnight. I did taste a tiny bit of the condensed wine, and it was VERY sweet and tasted very much like a strongly concentrated grape juice. It would make an amazing drizzle on top of some vanilla bean ice cream….mmmm!
To make this ice wine soap, I used just enough water to melt my lye (just over a 1:1 ratio of water:lye). I added the ice wine at trace. I used a combination of strawberry and rhubarb to fragrance the soap, which had the perfect balance of pungent, fruity, juicy and tart elements to compliment an ice wine infused soap.
Whenever I make soap with a new (unfamiliar) ingredient, I try to have a plan A, B and C in place:
Plan A is in case it moves really fast - my goal here is just to plunge the soap into the mold as fast as I can, nothing fancy here.
Plan B is in case it behaves well and I have some playtime, I can play around with some embeds or layering and texturing the tops.
Plan C is my always my failsafe plan; in case all of the above goes horribly wrong, I can always throw the soap in the oven and hot process it….it may not turn out as pretty, but it produces a perfectly usable soap!
This turned out to be a Plan A on the verge of a Plan C soap. When I added the ice wine, the soap immediately turned chocolate brown and thickened up…so much so, that I could barely get the fragrance evenly distributed. Did I mention that the raw soap stunk? Like that lovely ammonia-like smell that we get in soap making from using milks (thankfully, this unwelcome fragrance usually dissipates fairly quickly). Also, because the raw soap color had turned so dark from the ice wine, I had to blindly add some burgundy and violet mica, hoping that as the soap cures out, I will be left with something of a merlot color.
I was hoping to take pictures of the previous part of the process, but you can see how this part got away on me!
Because of the extra sugars in the wine, I immediately put the soap in the freezer to keep it cool. It is kind of a plain soap, so I jazzed it up by adding some blue, violet and iridescent glitter to the tops along with some iridescent star confetti:
PS - After making this soap, I found this wonderful article by Anne L. Watson on formulating and experimenting with beer and wine in soaps, I really wish I had read it before I attempted this soap...hope you find it helpful if you decide to try this -> Beer and Wine Soaps
*Alcohol Retention in Food Preparation. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 92:486-488 *http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/80400525/Data/retn/retn06.pdf