RECIPE: Double Avocado Soap

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I named my business, as well as this blog, Lavender and Olive because they are two of my favorite ingredients in a soap recipe, as well as to eat. But it could have easily been called Olive and Avocado, or Avocado and Lavender, or any combination of the three because, holy guacamole, do I love my avocados. They are equally delicious in handmade soap, and in a sandwich.

I would have to say that this Double Avocado Soap is my favorite original recipe. It has a beautiful milky white color that I love in a soap, and a nice firmness that I strive to achieve in each bar of soap I create. But the most amazing part is the stiff and bubbly foam it creates when you lather it with a body sponge and your skin will feel baby soft all day long. It’s simply amazing.

I scented the soap with Yuzu fragrance oil.  The lovely sweet citrus scent is so refreshing that I kept smelling my skin all day long.

Confession:  I was a little hesitant to share this original recipe because I wanted to keep it all to myself 😛 but it’s so great that it needed to be shared.  If you’re going to make just one recipe from this blog, I hope this will be the one.

Happy lathering!

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Double Avocado Soap (Yuzu Scented)
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Ingredients:

Avocado Oil (40%): 480 g
Olive Oil (30%): 360 g
Avocado Butter (10%): 120 g
Palm Oil (10%): 120 g
Coconut Oil (10%): 120 g

Distilled water: 467 g
Lye (85% discount): 145 g

Scents:

Yuzu Fragrance Oil: 4 tablespoons
Lavender Essential Oil: 10 drop
Peppermint Essential Oil: 10 drops
Spearmint Essential Oil: 10 drops
Chamomile Essential Oil: 10 drops

Emotional Highs and Lows of Soap Making

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The incredible sense of euphoria I experience from looking at a freshly unmolded soap loaf with perfect edges and smooth surfaces, or soap bars sliced into individual squares and lined up perfectly onto a wooden crate to dry, convinces me that I’m officially a soap addict, and a slight obsessive compulsive.

But it’s easy for me to get really, really disappointed too when a loaf comes out with some sort of imperfection, like discoloration or uneven surfaces, and I even consider tossing it out and start over when that happens. The inner soap perfectionist in me (and this is not a compliment) can’t handle it!  I don’t, of course, throw away an otherwise perfect handmade soap loaf, but I definitely experience extreme emotional roller coaster when it comes to soap making.

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I experienced an unbelievable high when I unmolded two loaves of all-natural Olive Oil Soap the other day. They both came out so perfect, with beautiful cream color, perfect edges, and silky-smooth exterior, and I couldn’t be happier. Then I hit the lowest low shortly thereafter when I discovered that my two-and-a-half year old daughter got to them and made giant dents on, no only one, but both loaves, while they were drying on the dining table! Noooooo! 😥 😥 😥  I was in foul mood for the rest of the day.

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Luckily, I was able to slice the loaves into individual squares and salvage most of them, with an exception of two with the imprints. So all in all, everything worked out fine at the end, but man, this soap-making thing is not good for my mental health!

I will share more information about the Olive Oil soap on a separate post. In the meantime, I’m going to go lay down and recover now.

#FirstWorldProblem … I know …

RECIPE: White Tea and Ginger Soap

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Once in awhile, I ponder upon random things, like why the decaf version of The Original Donut Shop Keurig K-Cups needs to cost almost twice as much as the original kind which sells for $27 for 72 counts … or whether Man with the Yellow Hat will ever get together with Professor Wiseman.

Or if I should name a soap based on a scent(s) or an ingredient(s), or both.

Still unsure, I’m calling my new batch of soaps White Tea and Ginger Soaps for now because that’s what I used to fragrance them, but technically, they would be called Olive Oil, Macadamia Nut Oil, and Shea Butter Soap with White Tea and Ginger.  But really, this is so not important compared to the love life of a cartoon character who wears the same yellow outfit day in and day out and keeps a very curious monkey as pet.

I hadn’t made soaps in a while but a recent trip to Lush reignited my love for the craft, and watching the oils and lye swirl together to make a lovely soap reminded me how much I love soap making!

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White Tea and Ginger Soap
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This recipe makes 1200 g batch

Ingredients:

Olive Oil (30%): 360 g
Macadamia Nut Oil (30%): 360 g
Shea Butter (20%): 240 g
Palm Oil (10%): 120 g
Coconut Oil (10%): 120 g

Distilled water: 467 g
Lye (85% discount): 145 g

Scents:

White Tea and Ginger Fragrance Oil: 4 tablespoons
Lavender Essential Oil: 15 drops
Grapefruit Essential Oil: 15 drops
Chamomile Essential Oil: 10 drops
Bergamot Essential Oil: 10 drops

Colorant:

Madder Root Powder (for pink color): 1 teaspoon

Note:

I usually make naturally scented soaps (with Essential Oils only) but I was SO in the mood to make Lush-like, heavily scented soaps so I used a little more Fragrance Oil (FO) than usual.  If you like a more subtle-scented soap, I recommend reducing the amount of FO or omit it altogether.  But these soaps smell incredible — just what I needed to rekindle my love for handmade soaps!

These are super moisturizing for your skin, thanks to shea butter and macadamia nut oil, and produce a gentle but satisfying lather. This is definitely one of my favorite and my go-to recipes.

Happy lathering!

English Muffins on Griddle

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From the way I’ve been blogging about bread lately, you might think I spend every day in the kitchen kneading up these carb-y lovelies.  I wish that were the case but unfortunately it’s not.  It’s been a crazy hot, and uncomfortably humid, summer and the last thing I want is to convert my apartment into a sauna.

I did make English Muffins recently but that was because the recipe didn’t require me to keep the oven on for hours (they cook on a griddle!) and I was in the mood for some homemade breakfast sandwich with fried eggs or toasted ones smothered in Bonne Maman strawberry jam.

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The English Muffins was the third creation from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (first was Baguette, and the second was Focaccia).  I’m not sure if I should call this book a cookbook or a text book but either way, it’s excellent with detailed instruction and explanation.  During my Konmari decluttering phase, I got rid of almost all the cookbooks I owned, but, of course, this one stayed.  It was no brainer. I truly think this is the best bread-making book ever written.

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I think one of the most valuable tips I got from my recent bread-making adventure at Surfas Culinary District was mise en place, or “putting in place” in French, to have all the ingredients measured and prepped beforehand to ensure a smooth maneuver around the kitchen come cooking time.  I had the yeast, flour, and all the equipments ready to go and I’m amazed at the amount of time I was able to save!

And I’m so in love with the items that I picked up from Surfas Culinary District — plastic dough rising container, bench scaper, yeast, and a can of Vegalene.

I can’t wait for the weather to cool down so I can do this more frequently.

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English Muffins
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It’s still way too hot to write a detailed instruction, so … please enjoy these photos!

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Yep, strawberry jam!

Surfas Breadmaking Class: Bread #5: Brioche

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I think it was my mother who once told me that if I want to quit eating sweets, I should make them myself. She said that if I see, first hand, how much sugar and fat are in it, I will surely quite eating it. Her point was valid because I no longer consume buttercream frosting after learning how much artery-clogging butter went into making the frosting during my cupcake-making days.

Because of that reason, I was very hesitant to bake Brioche at the bread workshop at Surfas Culinary District in Culver City. I just wanted to forever stay in a sugar-coated world where I was completely oblivious to the amount of butter and eggs that were packed in those cute, seemingly innocent French pastry.

But I suppose I can’t stay sheltered forever. It was time for me to face the music.  Here I go!

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A stand mixer definitely comes in handy in making the dough. I can’t imagine trying to do this by hand.

First you need to dissolve the yeast by whisking it with milk. Then add the flour and mix in a stand mixer with a dough hook. Add eggs and mix for 4-5 minutes.

Increase the speed to medium, and slowly add the butter (BUTTER!), tablespoon or two at a time. Continue to mix for 15 minutes to develop the gluten for a light, airy structure in bread.

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Now add sugar and salt and mix for 5-8 minutes. Conduct the “window pane” test (spread a tiny dough piece with your fingers into a thin translucent layer). If you can see through the layer without it ripping, you are ready to transfer the dough onto a buttered sheet pan and cover it with a plastic wrap.

Let it sit for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

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After the dough has rested for at least 6 hour, or overnight, turn the cold dough onto a greased pan. Divide the dough in half.  Then press one portion of dough into an even rectangle about 2 inches thick.

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Take the rectangle in half lengthwise and cut it crosswise into 6 equal portions. The recipe makes a total of 12 equal pieces.

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Roll the dough into balls.

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You have many option to shape the Brioche (i.e. in a loaf pan) but we made many small ones with little 2-3 balls per baking cup.

Place the Brioches in a pan.  Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and set them aside for about 45 minutes until the dough has risen to the level of the pan rim.

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Unwrap the dough, brush them with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake at 350 degree F for 30 minutes, rotating the after 20 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degree F and continue to bake or 25-30 minutes, or until they are golden brown on top.

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Transfer to cooling rack and let them cool completely.

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Look at these cute little Brioche!  They look like baby’s little bums!

So making Brioche wasn’t as scary as I thought.  Yes, there are quite a bit of butter (almost two sticks, to make two 8-1/2 inch loaves) and eggs (three altogether) but it’s not that bad as long as you just eat only one or two of the little ones.  It’s difficult to stay disciplined though because these little morsels are lovely, so lovely that you really can’t decide if they are bread or actually pastry.

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I ate one in class while it was still warm, and another one with a cup of coffee when I got home that afternoon.

Everything about Brioche was a music to my ears … and my tummy.

Surfas Breadmaking Class: Bonus: Fresh Butter

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I used to think that the only way to make fresh butter at home was by shaking the jar filled with cream vigorously until your arm falls off, but thanks to the bread-making class I took at Surfas Culinary District in Culver City, I now know that churning a melt-in-your-mouth spread is as easy as turning on the food processor!

In addition to five amazing breads I baked in class, I also learned how to make fresh butter from scratch during the two-day workshop!  There are only two ingredients you need here: fresh heavy cream and crushed ice cubes. That’s it! You’ll need some sea salt or herbs if you like to add a dash of flavor, but those are optional.

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To make butter, simply pour the heavy cream into a food processor and “process the cream until the butter begins to separate from the buttermilk and the butterfat granules are about half the size of pea,” according to Chef John’s instruction. “With the machine running, pour in the ice cube.”

You can also listen for the changes.

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Once the large mass is formed, turn off the machine.

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Then transfer the entire content into a container lined with a cheesecloth.

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Let the mass drain for a few minutes.  Just a quick caveat here.  We took out the mass slightly too early from the food professor, hence the white color.  If you let it process a little longer, the mass will produce a more, yellow hue that’s much closer to the actual butter.  Ours ended up tasting pretty good but was definitely a little too watery and too “fluffy” in texture.

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Squeeze out all the water.  The strained liquid is buttermilk.

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Optional:  If you want additives, like salt or herbs (or even fruits and preservatives for sweet butter), this is the time to add them in.  We added a generous amount of coursed sea salt in ours.

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Tada!  The fresh butter is made!  As I mentioned, ours wasn’t the best (and our group ended up going to other tables to sample other’s creations frequently) but it was still pretty darn good.

And I’m happy to report that my arm is still intact!

Skylark Stole

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Introducing my latest finished project: Skylark Stole from the book, Custom Knits Accessaries, by Wendy Bernard. It was knit with four skeins of Frog Tree Meriboo MW yarn in purple (7511).

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My friend T visited me from Portland a few months ago, and brought with her four skeins of lovely, 70% merino wool / 30% bamboo blend from her neighborhood yarn shop called Dublin Bay Knitting Shop for my birthday. The awesomeness was two-fold: I’ve never worked with these soft blends before and I was dying to try; and this wonderful gift came from a non-knitter! How cool is this? Someone who’s never knit got me one of the softest and lovelies yarns I’ve ever owned!

She told me that staff at the shop who recommended this yarn was confident that I would love it. They were absolutely correct about that!

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Blocking an intricate lace is such a treat. I love watching the design come to life simply with a pull of the blocking wires. This is when you realize your time and energy spent knitting this garment was totally worth it. (It can also be a major heartbreak, however, when you discover a mistake or two you didn’t notice until now … eek!)  By the way, I folded the stole in half to block because I didn’t have enough room to stretch out the entire thing flat.

As for the knitting, I have to confess that I got confused by the pattern at first. Looking back, I’m a bit embarrassed to even admit this since Wendy’s patterns are always, always impeccable, and this one was no exception. I just didn’t read the direction carefully enough. Mea culpa.

My confusion was from the eyelet pattern repeats. I needed to add this 4-sitch eyelet repeat before each, 21-stitch chevron pattern plus one at the end  (for a total of four times) and not just at the beginning and the end of each RS row I incorrectly interpreted. Because of this, I had eight wandering stitches that I just could not find a home for!  Once I figured it out, knitting this stole was a breeeeeeeze.

The pattern is simple but interesting enough that kept me engaged throughout the entire project. I think placing markers after each pattern is key. I recommend that you utilize those little rings as much as possible. I even put one after two garter stitches at the beginning and end of rows for good measure!

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I had to think of an interesting way to photograph the finished stole. I thought about just laying it flat on the floor to showcase the design but I was afraid that my two year old will get to it and rip it out before my eyes (and she will)! So I decided to just hold it against the white wall.  I hope you can see the lovely lace pattern from these photos.

Here are other ways that I’ll be enjoying this stole.  It’s so versatile, I can wear it as a stole or a scarf.  I have a feeling that I’ll get a good use out of this garment all year long!

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