Friday, March 10, 2006

Salt Dough Christmas Ornaments

1 cup flour
1 cup salt
1/2 cup water
1-1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Stir the flour and salt together, mixing well. Add water and vegetable oil. If the dough seems too dry, add up to 3 teaspoons more water, a teaspoon at a time. Knead the dough by hand until well blended, about five minutes. The dough can be kneaded right in the bowl.

Roll out the dough evenly on a board dusted with flour or cornstarch. Try to roll it to a thickness slightly less than 1/4 inch. Using cookie cutters or a sharp knife, cut the dough into any desired shape. If desired, decorate the shapes by making imprints with household objects. Spices such as poppy, coriander, or carraway seeds, peppercorns or star anise may be embedded in the dough. With a metal skewer or a drinking straw, make a hole at the top of each ornament, 1/4 inch from the edge, so that a ribbon or string can be threaded through to hang it.

Dust two baking sheets with cornstarch. Gently place the dough ornaments on the baking sheets. Place sheets in a gas oven with the pilot light on for two to three hours or until the decorations are very dry on top. If your oven is electric, turn it to its lowest setting and leave the door slightly open and leave the decorations in the oven until they are very dry on top. After removing them from the oven, place the ornaments on wire racks so the bottoms can cure (usually takes one to two days).

Dough can also be rolled with a Springerle rolling pin (a pin with designs carved in it.) Roll the dough out with an ordinary rolling pin to a thickness slightly less than 1/4 inch. Then dust the top of the dough lightly with cornstarch and roll across it once, firmly, with the Springerle pin. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut the designs into individual ornaments. Be sure to punch a hole in each one.

Wool (for a lamb or Santa Claus) can be made by pressing some of the dough through a garlic press. Stick the "wool" to the ornament by brushing water across the ornament, then carefully placing the wool on the dampened area. The drying of these thicker ornaments requires an additional step. Cure the ornaments in the oven and then on racks as described above, and then do the following: place the ornaments back on the cornstarch-dusted cookie sheets, bake them in a preheated oven at 200°F for 30 minutes and then increase the heat to 250°F for another 30 minutes.

Lastly, paint the ornaments with acrylic or tempera paints, if desired. Spray on several coats of clear acrylic to preserve them, if desired. When the ornaments are thoroughly dry, thread ribbon or yarn through the holes to make hangers. Store the ornaments, individually wrapped in tissue paper, in an airtight container or in a zippered plastic bag inside a box.

My daughter made salt dough Christmas ornaments for her teachers at school when she was in first grade. We made some stars and little birds and also some Springerle ornaments. We left them in their natural white color but added some painted details and sprayed them with acrylic. I still have the ones that I kept, and they still look good. She's now a senior in college, so the little ornaments have survived well for about 15 years.

Another great Easy Recipe

Love At Home

There is beauty all around
When there's love at home.
There is joy in every sound
When there's love at home.

Roses bloom beneath our feet,
All the earth is a garden sweet,
Making life a bliss complete,
When there's love at home.

-- John Hugh McNaughton (1829-1891)