I am not sure what possessed me to volunteer to mix and roll and paint and seal 160 salt dough ornaments to give away.
One hundred sixty. No one should ever doubt how much I love the library and the ladies there.
To tell the truth, when our friends group met and decided to make them for our annual Christmas fundraiser, I didn’t hesitate to help. I imagined my kids and I sharing special moments kind of like those depicted in the Rice Krispy treat commercials.
We would gather around the table and mix and knead and get flour on our noses, making memories while doing something important and worthwhile for our community.
I bought the flour and salt and went through my kitchen drawers only to find that I had thrown out my cookie cutters. All of them. And? I had no rolling pin.
So I made a second trip to the dollar store, where I found cookie cutters, but no rolling pins anywhere. After making three trips around the store, I found something that would work in a display straight across from the Gladware.
I am nothing if not resourceful.
We headed back home full of determination and promise, and we started strong.
We mixed. And we kneaded. And we kneaded. And we kneaded. Have you ever made salt dough ornaments? They require a LOT of kneading. Finally, we were able to roll. This was a highlight of the project since everyone wanted a turn with the Red Bull.
And then we pressed out our little cookies and eventually lined them all up in rows to dry. We got flour on our noses, and the table, and the counter, and the floor, and all our clothes, and everything else within a 15-foot radius of our workspace. But it really was a lot of fun.
When we finished, I counted our bounty and we had… about 40 ornaments. Forty. We needed 160.
Wyatt bowed out in favor of the Disney Channel, but Alyssa and I were not deterred. We kept mixing and kneading and kneading and pressing until we had 160 ornaments. It took us just shy of four hours.
We laid them out in neat rows to dry on the counter, the floor, in the living room, the den, and the kitchen.
But you know what? They didn’t dry. Not after three days, or a week, or a week and a half. I finally broke down and put them in the oven because I had to start painting.
The painting was slow, too, with several coats and some glitter to (try to) mask the imperfections. The kids really wanted to help with that part and it turned out sort of like the flour except paint isn’t quite as easy to clean up as flour.
Boy am I glad I didn’t procrastinate on this project, because after everything was said and done, it took more than two weeks to get those ornaments finished. I think they turned out pretty well, even if they aren’t perfect.
It was fun, it was for a good cause, and I ended up with a really cool rolling pin.
But next time? I’m volunteering for one batch, or I’m starting in September. One or the other.
Here’s the recipe, and what I learned from my mistakes:
Salt Dough Ornaments
4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup salt
1 1/2 cups water
Mix and knead until fully combined and smooth. (This takes a while and some muscle). I would suggest rolling it out at 1/4 inch or a little less. The thicker the ornament, the more difficult to get dry. If you dry them in the oven, the temperature should be set at 250 or less. Mine took several hours to dry/harden and they had been air drying for days so I don’t really know how long it will take. Paint with acrylic paint and seal with shellac or spray enamel.
Here are my tips, based on what I did wrong: If you decide to air dry them (which means no uneven baking and no browning) don’t put them on parchment paper. It draws the moisture from the ornaments, rumples underneath them, and the ornaments end up having the same rumple pattern. They must be painted with acrylic paint because if you accidentally (ahem) buy enamel paint, it will cut into the dough (which is yucky and lumpy). However, if you spray on some primer first, you can use any sort of paint you like. It makes it easier all around and provides a smoother surface for painting, so I like the primer step. I bought gloss and metallic paint, because I liked the sheen better than flat paint. I sealed all of them with gloss spray enamel. And here’s my biggest tip: Don’t try to make 160 ornaments. You can get about 24 ornaments with regular sized cookie cutters out of one batch. That’s the ticket.
Don’t tell anyone, but I still have this stashed in my closet: