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! ;-)