Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Schwarzwaelder-kirschtorte in soap!

Hi everyone, apologies for the lack of blogging lately, been really, really busy with lots of lovely Christmas orders.  We have one or two new things for you all this year which are pictured below, before that though I wanted to tell you about a new soapcake I have just made.  A lovely customer of ours from Germany sent me an image of the famous Schwarzwaelder-kirschtorte (Black Forest Gateaux to most of us!) and asked it I could possibly make it in soap.  What a challenge!  I so loved the look of the cake that I was really keen to make one myself, obviously with a bit of a Puro twist.
this was the image I was sent, a truly beautiful cake and very inspiring.

So I started by making the base first.  Chocolate fragranced soap swirled with vanilla.  I created two layers and covered the first layer in cherry soap balls.  You cant actually see this until the cake is sliced - I will try and remember to photograph that for you.

Then iced the sides of the cake with plain white icing soap

 then the top - this is done with the cake on a turntable just how you would make and ice a normal cake.

The cake with added piping and the soap decorations, all made in advance.
Soap cherries, chocolate fragranced balls and wafer sticks dusted in cocoa powder, chocolate curls made from old chocolate soap finished off with chocolate gratings.

Detail of the centre of the cake

The finished cake with added sparkle!

So that will be winging its way to Germany as soon as it is cured.  I did make two so there will be some available for sale either on the website or at the various Christmas Fairs I am attending soon, you should also be able to buy slices at Darts Farm, Topsham.

Now a quick run down of the Christmas soaps on offer.  Hurry up, they are going very, very fast this year!

Christmas Puds
Designed to hang on your Christmas tree or as part of your home decorations.  They will make your house smell lovely and spicy and, best of all, you can use them afterwards!  Great stocking fillers too.  Click here to go to the website page.

Gingerbread couples
Absolutely adorable gingerbread people, again for hanging on the Christmas Tree, fragranced with the same lovely Christmas Spice smells.  These little guys are sold in pairs, Mr & Mrs Gingerbread!

Ice 'N Snow Cupcakes
Beautiful fresh fragrance, reminiscent of a crisp frosty morning.  Fresh, minty ice blue icing with a glittering snowflake of soap on top and sweet glittery stars studded around the side.  Website link is here

Soapy Snowmen
A lovely one for the kids, natural soap with no added chemicals or preservatives, each little snowman is made by hand with hand piped coal eyes, mouth and buttons as well as a really jaunty little hat and scarf.  Comes in 3 colours which will be randomly selected for you.  Visit the page here

And lastly our two soap bars especially for Christmas.  Christmas Spice Cake and Follow The Star

To see more of our soaps visit out website or join our facebook page, this is where you will keep updated and find out about all our new soaps first.

Let us know what you think by leaving a comment, thank you.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Vindima! (grape harvest)

It's that time of year again when everybody in  the rural areas of Portugal are working hard on the 'Vindima' or grape harvest. As some of you may know we use my neighbours red wine in one of our soaps- 'Vinha doce' or 'Sweet Vine' which has recently been re-invented for this autumn with a beautiful grape and vine leaf detail

I love taking part in the picking and always try to set aside a day to help our neighbours. It's a really sociable occasion, usually with the ladies picking, and the men carrying the buckets of grapes up the steep terraces and into the press (which is in my neighbours garage).

 Lots of banter, sometimes a bit of singing and no shortage of wine and food- usually a huge lunch and several breaks for a 'Bucha' (a plug or a mouthful!).

Red wine is full of anti-oxidants and makes a wonderful skin care ingredient, with regenerating and lather-boosting qualities, so it's a fantastic addition to soap and we can certainly say this one is made with passion!



Friday, 31 August 2012

Summer Markets in Portugal

We've been selling at a few of the local markets here in Central Portugal. Our soaps have been received really well and we've been lucky enough to be invited to several events and fairs.

 Setting up in these beautiful settings is always a pleasure. We've been by the river at the organic market in Barril de Alva, under the amazing Plane trees at the Sandomil artisan market, and even the Botanical Gardens of  Coimbra.

We'll be back in Sandomil this Sunday so if you're local come and find us!

Thursday, 16 August 2012


Now this is an exciting project, one that we have been meaning to start for a long time.

As you may know we have two manufacturing bases for our soaps, one in Devon in the UK and one in Lagares da Beira in Portugal, we use natural Portuguese ingredients such as lovely golden olive oil in our soap and we love everything Portuguese.  With this in mind we have been thinking about making soaps that represent one of Portugal's most famous exports - it's beautiful egg puddings and pastries.

The most famous of these is known as Pastéis de Belém or Pastéis de Nata

It is believed that these wonderful little egg pastries were created before the 18th century by Catholic monks at the Jerónimos Monastery of the Santa Maria de Belém parish in Lisbon. During this time large quantities of egg-whites were in demand for starching clothes (such as nuns' habits) and also for cleaning wines, such as Porto, in wineries.  This meant that there were a lot of egg yolks left over so many Portuguese monasteries and convents came up with wonderful confections to use left over egg yolks.

This proliferation and adoration of sweet pastry recipes continues today and these sweet little specialty egg pastries are very famous.  The recipe for these egg custard pastries is kept a close secret.  Pedro Clainha, current owner of the famous shop Aniga Confieitaria de Belém sais "we still use the same recipe, only three people in the world know it"  Security is tight and the master bakers make the custard and dough in a locked room. 

Pastéis de Nata is the name given to the imitation pastries produced all over the rest of Portugal, they are not always as good but, when you get a good one, they are never to be forgotten.  My absolute favorite sweet thing in the world! (Ishbel)

The adoration of the Pastéis de Belém is easy to understand after you have taken a bite.  The shell is made from massa folhada, Portugal's equivalent to our puff pastry.  It spirals up creating a nest of hundreds of crispy layers.  Inside is a luscious, rich, warm custard sometimes with a thin blanket of powdered sugar and a tap of cinnamon on top - absolute heaven.

So, here at Puro love a challenge as you know, we now have lots of Portuguese followers and we thought it would be nice to create a soap that meant something to them, would make them smile and, most importantly would be a lovely, bubbly treat.  Here they are, hot off the making bench, soon to be available on our website

We hope you love the look of them too.  There is still room for improvement, I think the pastry cases need to be slightly more coloured for that "just out of the oven" look and the toppings could be warmer in colour but they smell really lovely, a fragrant vanilla scent that will make your mouth water and your skin smell warm and delicious.

Let us know what you think and if you are Portuguese we would love suggestions of more Portuguese pastries and puddings that could be created in soap.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Soap Challenge - Final Thoughts

I know its a while since we took part in the Great Cakes Soapworks Soap Challenge but we have just been so busy since then that there has been no time to blog again.  I went off to Portugal early July and made some exciting summer cupcake soaps along with Shelley, we had fun, made lots of soaps and talked, talked, talked!!  Its pretty hard running a business together when we live at totally different ends of Europe so when we get the change we spend as much time together as possible.  One of the good things we were able to do was to look at planning a schedule for new designs and creations for the Autumn and Winter seasons so watch out, lovely new soaps will be coming soon.

Back to the Challenge.  I thought it might be good to let you know what we got out of it.  Firstly here is a line up of all the soaps created between the two of us

My thoughts - Ishbel
I really, really enjoyed the challenge, it made me think hard both about my design ideas and pushing myself to make things that I had never tried before.  A lot of the things we were asked to do such as making soap using milk we do all the time so it was tricky to follow the brief while still making it unusual and taxing.  My favorite making project was the Jubilicious soap on week 9, the challenge was to make a soap with a textured top.  This is something that we do regularly so I decided to give myself the task of creating a top that looked different and was an integral part of the overall design rather than just a rocky top.  The design was based on the Jubilee celebrations in the UK, I waned to create a red, white and blue soap topped with a matching crown.  The scent of this soap is fabulous too, Lady Grey tea, bergamot, lemon and orange, its refreshing and sweet at the same time and I love it!  Im definitely going to push to get a soap with this scent combo in our main range.

My most technical challenge was piping soap roses (week 3), not only was it a challenge to produce the actual roses, I made my first Puro video of it too!  A difficult thing to do but I have been practicing since and it is paying off.  Our first Piped Rose Soap Cake is about to go off to one of our wholesalers in Germany.

So I feel like I have put my new skill to good use.  Thanks to Amy Warden for organising this wonderful event, I hope we can take part in another one, but not for a while!!!

My thoughts: Shelley
I loved the challenge too! Not only did I learn new skills which I probably wouldn't have got round to trying- like making a landscape soap (not as easy as it looked!), but I also learnt new techniques from seeing the ones Ishbel made. The faux funnel swirl that Ishbel made in week 6 got me hooked, and has been my latest favourite swirling technique. I also really enjoyed doing the gradient layered bar- not sure I'll be repeating that one too often, as its quite time consuming, and I think I'm more of a fan of the crazy swirls than the controlled layering - but it's a great technique to have mastered!
My favourite soap challenge of all was the fragrance blend of week 5. I had to do a bit of homework with this one. After learning all about the theory behind blending essential oils, and a rummage through my left over stocks of Essential Oils, I came up with a blend which just produced the most beautiful soap. Unfortunately I don't think it will be included in the range as it was incredibly expensive to make- but who knows!
I'm off now to have a play with the icing technique Ishbel used on the cake above- all these ideas, that Amy encouraged us to try, are not only inspirational but addictive! ;-)

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Natural Soap Cupcakes, new designs coming soon

Just a quick post to let you all know that our Ice cream summer range of soap cupcakes are now available on the website and for wholesale orders. 

they look great and smell even better

Also we have been playing with some more ideas for summer cupcakes, some lovely floral ones.  We have just added them to our cupcake photo album on our facebook page, do please go and have a look and see which ones you like best.  We still have not decided which we like and may come up with some more too, these are a start!!

Just to give you an idea..........

As you know, we love comments so please do let us know what you think.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Banana Cream Soap Challenge

Shelley and I really are quite sad, this is the last of the Great Cake Soapworks soap challenge, we are a week late posting, but here is the last of our new challenge soaps.

Our challenge this week was to make soap with natural ingredients.  Well, again, this is a bit strange for us as we always use as many natural ingredients in our soaps as we can.  I decided to try a fruit pulp soap as I have never made one of these, I also wanted to give my soap embellishment skills an additional boost by trying something I have never done before.  So, as a combination of new skills, I felt this was suitably challenging!

I decided to use bananas, mainly as we have a new banana fragrance oil that I use to make Puro Soaps Banoffee ice-cream cupcakes and it smells yummy.  In addition we use a banana soap slice on each cupcake (see above), I normally hand paint each one and wanted to try a technique that would give us an endless supply of slices.

If you have ever got interested in making things out of polymer clay, you will probably be familiar with the technique of Millefiore, it is also often used to create beads and interesting jewellery.  Essentially you start off with a large version of the form you want to create and stretch it, sounds easy doesn't it?  How to make it in soap though?  The object is made as a short fat cylinder, much bigger than you finally want and stretched one way to alter the dimensions and make the object appear much smaller than you originally started off with.  The pattern should also appear when the lengthened cane of soap is cut through at any point along its length.

My banana model in the background and the three different colours of soap needed to make a banana cane
So I got on with it and made a fairly successful cane of banana, not quite as accurate as objects made of polymer clay but I think that is because soap has very different properties.  It took quite a long time so Im not sure how time saving it would be in the long run but I did enjoy the task.

then I put the soap together and made this video whilst doing it.........


When cut up the soap was very strange, it was seeping a bit of oil (definitely not lye - I think it was vitamin E) and along the length between the white 'cream' soap and the tan coloured 'banana' soap there was a strange cave-like structure which I have never seen before.  I have no idea what this is or how it was created but overall I am very happy with the finished result.  The soap itself is very, very creamy with a rich double cream like lather, it smells really good too.  It came out of the mold quite wet, not actually sticky, but feeling heavy and wet.  I put this down to the banana pulp adding weight and moisture to the soap mix.  It is already curing nicely and has an interesting speckled finish as well as the strange cave effect.  The oils have all been re-absorbed and it seems pretty solid and stable.  I'm really looking forward to using it.

All that remains is to thank Amy Warden for organising this brilliant Soap Challenge, I know I speak for both myself and Shelley when I say how much we have enjoyed it.  I think what it has shown us is that there is never any end to what you can learn and how much you can push yourself with the amazing craft of natural cold process soap making.  We hope to still be challenging ourselves in many years to come!!

Check out this link to Amys site to see other soapmakers challenge results, you will be amazed.  Unfortunately this blog was a little to late to get into the week 11 line up but there are lots of superb soaps there to look at.  We are planning a photo modeling shoot for all the soaps we have made during this 11 week marathon, so watch out for that.

Please, please let us know what you think of our latest creation, pass on the site and make sure you sign up to our facebook and Twitter pages, this is where you hear our news first.

thank you for following us......

Ishbel and Shelley

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Serra da Estrela Landscape Soap

 This is Week 10, and the penultimate week of the current Great Cakes Soapworks Soap Challenge organised by Amy Warden.
I personally think this has been the most challenging one yet!

I thought I'd have a go from Portugal, as again Ishbel has more experience of making Landscape Bars in the past, and I wanted to have a go at a Portugal inspired Landscape bar.

 So, all these photos are the inspiration behind my soap bar. First of all I wanted to create the rock of the Serra da Estrela- which is our local mountain range, a National park, and is the highest range in Portugal. I did this by piping a lumpy rock through the middle of the soap loaf.
Then I wanted to give a layer of the pine forests- so I added a green with some dried crushed parsley to give texture. Followed by the lush green pastures- so this was a very slightly lighter plain green.
Then I sat in the Portuguese sun- (i mean I sat a bright yellow tube of soap sun into the bar- I didn't have time for sunbathing at this point!)
These bottom layers were fragranced with all the smells of The Serra da Estrela- Pine, Eucalyptus, some cedar and the wild herbs of Bay and Rosemary.

 Above the sun I wanted to create the wild amazing skies that we often get here- I swirled Orange, Pale yellow, white and a deep grey-blue red and scented it with the fruity floral scents of Portugal- Orange blossom and Citrus.
So..... here's the final soap.
It has the boulders, the green forest, the sun and the colourful sky.
I'm really happy with the result - it was a tricky soap to make, but I think it needs refining. It reminds me of a childs painting- and although clever (it is soap after all!) I would like to make it more sophisticated. (It also reminds me a bit of something from the Expressionism art period!) Perhaps I need to simplify it- take one element- the mountains for instance in more subtle colours- I'm not sure!! Let me know what you think!!
However I do know its going to be a fabulous soap to use- it smells wonderful and has the usual lovely local Portuguese ingredients- my neighbours Goats milk and our local Olive oil.                                        

This is the double bar before I cut it in half.

This is the final bar.

Again. another brilliant challenge- and again I can't wait to have another go and refine another new skill I've learnt!

Thursday, 17 May 2012


So, some of you may have noticed a couple of small little things that are going on in the UK this summer?  No? well let me tell you....

Firstly its the Queens Diamond Jubilee, a pretty major happening here.  The main events take place between June 2nd and June 5th although there seems to be things planned all year, even 'The Archers', Britain's longest running soap, on Radio 4 is hosting a special event to celebrate. This is the official Website of the British Monarchy for those of you who might be interested in finding out more about this Right Royal Event.

Then there is the London 2012 Olympic Games, now surely that could not have escaped your attention, many visitors will be coming over to the UK and the country is due to be plastered in Red, White and Blue Union Jack flags along with a complete take over of TV, radio and newspapers.  There are bound to be lots of exciting stories and many records broken.  The dates for this event are the 27th July until 12th August, now while some residents may be using that as an excuse to escape the madness and leave the country, many will be staying for the fun and parties, oh and to watch Team GB of course.

Why is all this relevant?  Well, as part of the Great Cakes Soapworks soap challenge (this is week 9 already) I decided to do something that would celebrate both events in some way as well as fulfilling the challenge brief and trying something new.  This is Ish by the way!!  I know it gets a bit confusing as there are two of us making soap for Puro Soaps.

So...........  Red, White and Blue, had to be the colours for this soap really didn't it?

Did you know the Queens favorite tea is Earl Grey? and, those of you who know Shelley and I, know that we cannot function without tea, tea and more tea, so I decided to create a special Earl Grey tea fragrance (natural of course) for this soap.

I remember seeing a wonderful Twinings advert for 'Lady Grey' tea with the fabulously English and gorgeously sexy Nigella Lawson (see below) and that got me going.

Earl Grey tea is china tea which has added bergamot, Lady Grey is a lighter alternative with infusions of lemon and Seville orange peels, a more sophisticated tea I think (I like both).  So to create this scent I used essential oils of Bergamot, 5 fold Orange and Lemon and mixed, it smelt exactly right in the pot, I just hoped it would survive the rigors of cold process soap and smell as good in the soap.


The challenge for week 9 was to create a soap with a textured/peaked top.  Ha, well we already do this most of the time so my challenge was to create a peaked top that represented the Jubilee (by looking like the Queens Crown) as well as being slightly individual for each bar.  When we make our soaps we use large wooden molds which are double the width of our finished soap bars, this means that not only do we cut our loaves of soap across to create slices, we also have to cut them in half again to create the individual slices.  In practice this makes it quite hard to create an individual peaked top for a single bar.  So I set myself the task of doing just that.  Here goes.......

I got my usual recipe mix ready, brought it to a light trace then divided it up into 3 jugs for the colours.  I used natural pigments for this, Ultramarine blue and Red Oxide as well as Titanium Dioxide for the white.  I decided to layer the 3 colours fairly thickly, retaining a little bit of each to do thinner layers on top of the loaf.  I hoped this would mean that when I started working the top texture I could draw the thin layers up together to create red, white and blue peaks.  It sort of worked!

Remember, I also wanted to create an individual, crown like peaked top on each bar to represent the Queens Crown and the Jubilee.  So the finished loaf looked like this...

A little sparkle of glitter and then the overnight wait for it to set up.  Here is another close up of the peaked effect before cutting

The next day I got the soap out of the mold and the scent was fabulous, it really does smell like Lady Grey tea, a light, fruity scent with the distinctive bergamot tones over the top.  Then I set it up, ready to cut and went for it.

I was pretty happy with the first thin cut end piece.  The colours are not quite as bright as I wanted but they have actually darkened a bit now 2 days later so I am hopeful they will not fade at least.  Oh but the smell, it is so lovely, I had to stop and make a cup of tea!

Cutting the final bar, and the division has worked!  That was really the most important result for me in this challenge, to end up with a bar of soap that had its own individual, crown like, peaked top.  Here is a close up, you have to use your imagination a bit, but I do think the top does look a little like a crown, the glitter helps.

And here are the finished bars in all their Jubilee/Olympic/tea glory!  Now all we need is a name for this soap, can you help?

The best suggested name will receive a free bar of this soap as soon as it is ready.  It will be judged by Shelley and I and the winner will be announced on our facebook page and via our new Twitter account @purosoapsclub. (please do follow us on Twitter)

 Please note, sorry but due to postage costs, this offer is only open to UK and EU residents.

Please add your name suggestion to your comments on this blog post - you know how much we like them!  You could also leave your name suggestion on our facebook page too.

Thanks for taking part, and thanks, as always, to Amy Warden for organising this great event.  The next challenge will be made by Shelley in Portugal, it is to create a landscape soap - very exciting!