My interest was piqued by the book “Soap Crafting,” by Anne-Marie Faiola, ($19.95, Storey Publishing) when it hit my mailbox. Perhaps, I thought, I could make soap for everyone for the holidays this year.
Then I began reading the book, and realized I’d probably need to lease space in a nuclear facility to prevent inhaling toxic fumes, burning off my nose or blowing up my house. Faiola’s book offers step-by-step techniques for making 31 cold-process soaps, which is apparently not as benign as it sounds.
Outside heat is not needed during the creation process, but a chemical reaction called saponification occurs when you combine oil and lye. It’s highly flammable and can burn skin, so much so that there are repeated warnings to wear goggles and long sleeves — maybe even a mask — and to keep children and pets away while working.
Nevertheless, the pages of “Soap Crafting” illustrate and explain how to make of some of the most gorgeous soap I’ve ever seen, including elegant Black and White bars, 5-Color Neon Cubes, creamy looking Pumpkin In-the-Pot Swirls and, my favorite, Cupcake Cuties, which “lets you play with temperature to create a texture that mimics soft and fluffy frosting.”
Each recipe requires a lot of ingredients and even more patience, given that many of them typically need to cure for several weeks. It’s a perfect instructional manual for veteran soap makers and beginners willing to make the commitment.