How to Make Christmas Salt Dough Ornaments
December, 2014 · By Coryanne Ettiene
Christmas is a sensory experience, and when you break it all down to sight, sound, touch, taste and aroma, there is not a single element of this festive season that cannot be traced back to the Christmas tree. As our family grows, so too does our Christmas tree tradition. What started with a simple “My Tree” and “The Family Tree” tradition, soon became a “Yours”, “Mine” and “Ours” tree collection. (….and if you are reading this and thinking, this sounds familiar, thank you for reading Box Nine Magazine
, we are so excited about it!)
Mine because it is only glanced upon from a distance and comes with a do not touch unspoken warning that quite possibly is the most OCD display of my personality — I spend hours making sure that everything is evenly spaced, correctly hung and trimmed to the point of a coordinated headache. Yours because the children have complete control over how to decorate their 4 foot tree that is bursting with color and personality (not to mention a tinsel garland that I hope one day will become discarded). We got along quite happily with this tradition until one night, after few bottles of wine, the idea of an edible tree was born.
My husband Alex and I knew that at a certain point the magic of Santa would fade away and we wanted to be sure that when it did, there was plenty of magic to keep the festivities memorable and full of anticipation. At every turn the conversation became animated with talk of our childhood Christmas memories, and at the core were the moments we shared at our kitchen table. For him it was board games and hanging chocolate coins on the tree, for me it was making salt dough.
As a child my mother would gather my brother and I around the kitchen table for a night spent making salt dough ornaments. My mother whose artistic talents have never stopped amazing me, would create these brilliant hand crafted ornaments, while my brother and I fumbled with the cookie cutters that resulted in wonky stars and imperfect snowmen. The table would fill with laughter, our fingertips would be dry and salty from the dough, and the anticipation of hanging them would fill the air. I remember the concept of making ormiments when you could buy better ones at the store being both exciting and curious at the same time, that beaming pride of seeing yours hung on the tree, and of the care my mother took to make a weekend event of the whole process. Somewhere between being a curious child and a feisty teenager, that memory was all but forgotten, but sitting there sharing this memory with my husband, made me giddy with anticipation to rekindle the tradition my mother started and share it with our our children.
Knowing that the salt dough process can take a weekend to go from start to finish, we looked for other edible tree projects that we could double up on to make the entire weekend dedicated to trimming the tree that would bring us together as a family. No longer a home with a “My Tree” and a “Your Tree”, rooted somewhere between tradition and accident “Our” tree became a significant event in our Christmas celebration. Focused around the kitchen table where our modern life slows to a space in time where the clock stops ticking and memories are made in a room that triggers the 5 senses. Gingerbread wafts through the air, gumdrops linger on the tastebuds, salty fingers carefully crafting, eyes watching as the family comes together in tradition and laughter lingers between us. We don’t care what the tree looks like, or who hangs what, we only care that we are there, in the moment, embracing our Christmas tradition.
- 1/2 Cup of Table Salt
- 1/2 Cup of warm water
- 1 Cup of All purpose Flour
In a dry mixing bowl add the salt and the flour and mix until fully blended, then add the water and kneed until the surface is soft and smooth. Roll into a large ball and portion out smaller balls to each person making ornaments. Cover with a slightly damp cloth to keep the unused balls from drying out while you are busy creating. Either opt for the simple option of rolling out the dough into thin slabs and cut with a cookie cutter to create your shapes, or get busy sculpting more elaborate decorations.
Once your ornaments are complete, place a toothpick at the top of each ornament to create the hole needed to string it later. Bake at 200F for 4-6 hours to completely evaporate the moisture from the dough. Once dry, use acrylic paint to decorate, then spray with clear varnish to seal the ornament and give it a bit of holiday shine.
- Parchment Paper, great for using as a worktop surface that can be transferred right on to a baking sheet;
- Rolling pin;
- Cookie Cutters, Play-dough equipment, potato ricer, butter knives, forks, and anything that you can think of to give your ornament a little razzle dazzle;
- Toothpicks or wooden skewers to pierce a whole;
- Various baking sheets;
- Acrylic Paints, Paint Brushes and cupcake wrappers to use as paint pots;
- Clear Varnish;
- Ribbon, wire, or string to hang your ornament.
See our Edible Christmas tree in the new issue of Box Nine Magazine, free on ISSUU by clicking here.