I’m a sucker for ornaments and think they make some of the very best gifts, especially when they are handmade. And this simple, three-ingredient recipe for salt dough ornaments is the perfect way to add special memories to your loved ones traditions. Happy tree trimming! -Kate
The very first kitchen craft I remember making with my mom was homemade salt dough…aka DIY Play-Doh. At five years old, it was mind-blowing to make the connection that something I loved to play with was also something that I could make myself, at home, with stuff you eat.
I was forever hooked on DIY projects after that, and on making salt dough, in particular.
One of the beautiful side effects is the way this (very simple) recipe dries so you can intentionally and permanently harden it to set your designs in “stone,” creating lifelong keepsakes in just minutes of work, plus a few hours in the oven. They aren’t quite as moldable or smooth as making ornaments from bread dough, which is basically the fondant of DIY craft doughs, but salt dough is infinitely easier. It also only requires ingredients that you’re almost certain to always have on hand.
This year, I wanted my ornaments to do double duty as gift tags, so I made a small batch of dough — resulting in more than two dozen mini ornaments for less than 50 cents worth of pantry ingredients! If you’ve run out of decorations, host gifts, gift wrap, or just need an activity to keep the little ones busy this holiday season, I highly recommend giving this a try.
To get creative with your shapes, use modern or antique butter molds or Springerle forms — anything that makes a relief pattern on the dough will work. To make a keepsake that captures a moment in time, you could press a child’s hand or foot or a pet’s paw into the dough, then use a large round cookie cutter to cut out your ornament. You could also decorate your kitchen or gifts by laying something with a pretty silhouette (sprigs of herbs, flowers, a swatch of heirloom lace trim, crochet, to name a few) over the rolled out dough, covering with a piece of parchment, and then pressing into the dough with a rolling pin.
Use your imagination and what you have on hand in your baking/crafting arsenal, and the possibilities are truly endless – for children and adults alike!
Notes on my Gift Tag Ornaments:
To create my shapes, I used a small, empty (and cleaned) can of tomato paste as my cookie cutter, but you can use any shape you like. To personalize them, I used individual letter stamps I picked up in the dollar bin at Target, making sure not to press too hard so only the letter and not the outline of the stamp itself were left upon the dough. Then, using a straw, I added a hole at the top of each ornament for hanging, and removed the excess dough!
BASIC SALT DOUGH ORNAMENTS
- 2 parts flour
- 1 part salt
- 1 part water
- Preheat the oven to 250ºF.
- In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Gradually add the water, stirring to incorporate, until all the water is added, and you have a doughy consistency.
- Use your hands to make a ball out of the dough, and knead it for 5 to 7 minutes. The longer you knead, the smoother your dough!
- Cut the ball in half, and roll it out between two pieces of parchment paper to about 1/2-inch thickness.
- Create your ornaments, using cookie cutters (or anything else with a crisp edge!) to cut out shapes, up to about 4 to 6 inches in diameter. Decorate to your imagination's content!
- Transfer the ornaments to a parchment-lined baking sheet to bake for about 3 hours.
- Once your ornaments have dried and cooled, you can paint them or just string with decorative twine, ribbon, or embroidery floss. Get festive!
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