Triple Maize Soap

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triple_maize.jpg


I've learned about nixtamalisation like a foreign language. Corn doesn't play much of a role in the cuisine over here, and when, then it's cultural (more often than not literally pop-cultural) import: corn flakes, polenta, popcorn, tortillas. Accordingly exotic was it for me to read up the process of soaking corn in alkaline solution to prepend the digestion of the kernels with steps that our human digestive system isn't able to all by itself – perfected from pre-Columbian mesoamericans.
Try-out factor 100%! I eventually got some pickling lime to do this, and etched away the hulls from the kernels, to use them as-is (hominy) or grind them up (masa).

Well, enough prose, this is SMF in the end. I didn't just dispose of the lye after the nixtamalisation. Instead (you might have guessed) I used it to dissolve more lye into it (NaOH this time), and make it the first of three types of corn additions to a Triple Corn Soap!

I first crawled through the ever fruitful Triple Rice soap thread to decide for a process, and get a feeling what, when, and how much of corn solids to add. I came up with a fairly standard HP protocol. It's a matter of honour to use corn oil as a base oil in this soap (30% of the oils). Starting with 26% lye made with said nixtamalisation water (40%TOW), and over the course of the process, I added another 40%TOW of the liquid (mainly to compensate evaporation losses and to soften the final batter).
For the corn solids: I stirred 2%TOW yellow corn flour into the oils ahead of time. I also separated 10%TOW of the coconut oil, and mixed it with some of the nixtamalisation juice, as well as 0.6%TOW corn starch, to add just before the mashed potato phase turns into vaseline. (My conception was to not cook the starch for too long, so that it doesn't thicken up the aqueous phase and impede thorough mixing – not sure if this worked out.)

All in all, it went according to plan. What I noticed was an elevated tendency of the batter to separate into oils and a light and thin soap batter that resembles pancake batter – no idea if it's due to the corn flour?
Anyway. I cooked the soap until nearly finished; the addition of the coconut+starch mix threw me back into applejuice phase. But that's just a matter of patience. After a bit more than an hour, I was left with a nice and gloopy vaseline paste, neither relevantly thicker nor thinner than other HP pastes I've made before.
So far, the batter had been yellowish, but now in vaseline stage it became reddish-brown translucent. I didn't want to rely solely on the corn as a colourant, and it was post-cook superfat time anyway – in there went 4%TOW red palm oil! Very orange batter, but it opacified upon cooling (luv the freezer-unmoulding technique!). I'm happy with the colour, that is a bright warm yellow, just a bit too saturated to be beeswax. The soap smells slightly like nixtamalised corn (tortilla chips) – not sure how much of this odour will survive cure, but if it doesn't, I'm not sad.


You might have noticed that I have (re)stocked quite some items lately (mint EOs, NaOH, canola wax, more to come…). All these were actually just excuses to restock bubble wrap! :) You can never have enough bubble wrap! (well, yes, you can 😑)
Somehow my brain decided that bubble wrap (in soap-casting most often abused for faux beehives) would make a terrific corn ear pattern. So I squeezed two stripes (oriented in the two possible ways) into the moulds and squished the soap paste in. Judge yourself how well this worked. And no, you don't have to remind me that in corn ears, the kernels point outside, not inside.
FWIW, it's not a complete failure, though, and at least I resisted buying the appropriate silicone mould.


And I promise that this will be my last corn-decorated soap showcase for a long time. 😇
 
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I guess about tomorrow it'll have the hardness of beeswax, and still be a tiny bit sticky on the outside. So that one really could mistake the two.
It's not only that the pits go inside instead of outside, it's also the geometric hexagon pattern makes it really difficult to not see something bee-related there.

On the other hand, on this photo, the ugly top surfaces are really appearing like a corn ear that is broken apart in the middle.
 
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@ResolvableOwl , I love, love, love this idea. Coming from the southern US, we do a lot with corn - cornbread, corn pudding, spoon bread, grits, polenta, corn oil. I am very interested in how your soap comes out - lather, feel, hardness etc. What fun!!! I now have this on my list to try.

Oh, what is TOW? I couldn't find it on the acronym list.
 
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Yeah, I feel that corn is really underrated. Not very traditional around here, it is cultivated a lot but mostly for fodder, biogas and industrial purposes – and the GMO snake pit doesn't exactly help its reputation either.
This soap is also a humble attempt to contribute to its rehabilitation :)🌽

PS: Your avatar just destroyed my efforts to get rid of the beehive association. 😂

Oh, what is TOW? I couldn't find it on the acronym list.
%TOW = percentage of Total Oil Weight (more concise than the ambiguous “%ppo”). I have requested the mods to add TOW to the almighty acronym list, but they haven't yet.
 
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You have just given me ideas to try out! In my hand dyed fabric supplies, I have both corn and potato dextrin that I've used for resists. I'll have to dig them out and see just how fine grained they are and what they feel like after soaked in water. I might have a dual purpose for each of them. Never thought of using it like the rice flour as an additive!
 
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Dextrin sounds quite soluble, particularly after prolonged cooking. They might come out quite close to sugar (just without discolouration issues).
Yes, give it a try! It'll be worth the experience in any case!
I was skeptical about the starch (pure corn starch, but also the starch that the flour brings), if it wouldn't gelatinise into a sticky, viscous paste? Haven't noticed much of that effect, but with dextrins one is on the safe side in any case.
Actually I do have some maltodextrin (originally for cheating when brewing beer) at hand too, and now I'm wondering why I never have used it for soap? 🤔

Towards granularity: I went for the quite fine corn flour (rather than something coarser, like polenta) since I didn't want to risk the soap to become scratchy. I feel exactly zero tactile effect from the corn. Corn flour in CP, or polenta in HP might be viable exfoliants.
 
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I was skeptical about the starch (pure corn starch, but also the starch that the flour brings), if it wouldn't gelatinise into a sticky, viscous paste? Haven't noticed much of that effect, but with dextrins one is on the safe side in any case.
Yes, when I use the dextrins as a resist, I have to cook them into a gelatiness glop to spread on my fabric. I'll test a bit cooked or not, for the feel as I'm not looking for an exfoliant. I won't be soaping until after the first of the year, but will try to post here to let you know. Now to find that box that I stored all of my resists in...or did I send that to my daughter in Hawaii that does batiking? Ah, memory is such a fleeting part of the human brain! LOL
 
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I just remembered that I did use said maltodextrin in soap before: but as part of the solvent cocktail for M&P base (at some 30%TOW). It didn't convince me. It somewhat worked, but the soap was soft and gummy when cold, and honey thick when melted.
 
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Update! (Age: 24 days)

triple_maize_T+24d.jpg

I know, I know … I'm just half through the official cure time … but I've been reorganising my curing facilities and couldn't resist (not to speak that I had to give the wire cutter a long overdue cleansing).
From the appearance, it hasn't quite held up to its initial potential. The colour did fade a bit; well actually the colour didn't change much, but with drying the soap became less opaque and gained a “glassy” look instead. Even more like beeswax now!
Anyway. Lather test. Wow! The suds really popped up rather quickly: with generous amounts of a thick, dense and creamy lather, that still was easy to whip into large, fluffy bubbles with a drop of extra water. The photo does the actual lather terrible injustice – its lather is, just now, less than four weeks into cure, already one of the most luxurious of all the soaps I've ever made. 😊
Not to speak that it kept its smell! (at least by now). I guess the smell of cooked corn won't become a canonical perfume note any time soon, but I love it, and I love that the smell of the soap reminds me of tortillas and hominy.
A worthy finale for my humble (and cheap) bottle of maize germ oil!
 
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It feels completely smooth, I don't feel anything tactile in there. The corn flour (from Turkey) is quite fine (much finer than, say, polenta), and it has been boiled quite some time during HP. I didn't expect it to be noticeable. If exfoliating properties are desired, it's entirely possible to add it late (post-cook) and/or use coarser grade.

Wrt bubbliness: The oil blend itself is decent, but nothing extraordinary (12% CO, 4% castor). It might well be that it was the flour(s) that contributed the corn equivalent of the “Triple Rice effect” – i. e. abundant lather surprisingly early on in the life of the bars.
 
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Let's just have a look!
corn_flour.jpg
My corn flour (Turkish: Mısır unu) is definitely distinct from the super fine & neutral white starch powder, that sounds like snow when you compress it. It has a noticeable yellow hue, and is also a lot coarser than white wheat flour (it is free-flowing, not clumping, and doesn't produce dust clouds) – but still much finer than semolina or polenta. In German this milling grade is called „Dunst“ or „griffig“/„doppelgriffig“ (I found “middlings” as a translation but I'm not sure how accurate this is).

It's amazing how difficult it is to communicate seemingly simple things like flour milling grades across boundaries of (not that far apart) languages and traditions of cuisine 😵.


ETA: My super-well-organised press archive had a shot of the corn flour in the oils:
corn_flour_oils.jpg
Bright yellow, and it dispersed all by itself … starch would have needed more care to avoid clumps.
 
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