Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Salt Dough Ornament Tutorial

So.  I know what you're thinking.

First, she wraps bricks to make bookends.

Then, she traces her kid's hand to make a turkey card.

And now she's making salt dough ornaments?!!

Give this woman her own DIY Crafting show, because she is ON FIRE. 

Salt Dough Winner

Um, yeah.  So welcome back to another installment of The Easiest Fucking Crafts of All Time.  Today we're making precious holiday memories.  Prepare to warm the hearts of grandparents* everywhere.

There are a thousand and twelve recipes for salt dough ornaments. In all likelihood, the internet does not need another... HOWEVER, after spending an extraordinarily embarrassing amount of time reading through comments on other posts, it seems there are many potential pitfalls to this three-to-four ingredient recipe -- dough that won't come together or is too tough to roll out, ornaments that crack or bubble or puff up or won't dry at all.  NOT FUN THINGS when one is trying their damnedest to preserve the innocence of youth in an ornamental baked good.

What follows is the recipe I cobbled together from all those comments... capitalizing on the misfortune of others, that's what we're about over here.

To make 6-8 ornaments, you will need:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • rolling pin
  • parchment paper
  • round cookie or biscuit cutter {mine was 3.5 in in diameter}
  • toothpick / shish kabob skewer / small wooden dowel / nail / or some combination thereof
  • oven-proof wire wrack
  • cookie sheet 
  • ribbon and/or ornament hanger 
  • oil based paint pen
  • semi-willing child of smallish size 
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Combine flour, salt, water, and oil in a stand mixer.  Using the bread hook attachment, mix/knead for 10 minutes on medium speed until dough forms a smooth ball.  

Roll dough out onto parchment paper.  You want the dough thin enough that it will bake/dry relatively "quickly," but thick enough to make the hand impression.  {This instruction is entirely unhelpful, I know... Just use your good, crafty judgment.

Press kidlet's hand into the dough, repeating several times but leaving enough space between prints to cut ornaments. Using your cookie cutter {the lip of a glass would work, too}, cut out prints and place them on another sheet of parchment paper. Note I: I found it easier to make the prints first and cut around them, than to cut the ornament shape and try and force L to put her hand in the center of the pre-cut circle.  Note II: You have to press kinda hard.  My child was not super enthused by this.  Expect whining.  Note III: I rolled my dough out twice, making 3 ornaments each time. I could have gotten at least 2 more, but L was way over it, plus I could not think of two other people who would appropriately cherish such a treasure. 

Using your toothpick or skewer, poke holes around the edge of the ornament.  Not only is this pretty, it "vents" the ornament and decreases the chance of bubbling or puffing.  Using the wooden dowel or nail or skewer or whatever other tool you have in your MacGyver Kit, poke a hole at the top of the ornament through which you will eventually attach ribbon and/or a hook. 

Place parchment paper with ornaments on the wire rack.  Place the wire rack on a cookie sheet.  And place the whole shebang in your preheated oven.  Cook for 2-3 hours.  {Oh. Did I fail to mention you'd be trapped in your house for an extended period of time?  This is the craft that never ends!  Pour yourself a cocktail and hang tight.} Ornaments will not be rock hard, but should be firm enough to handle without bending.  

Now: Time to decorate.  I went the "less is more" route and just tied a little ribbon through the top hole and attached my hook to the bow.  I also wrote L's name, the year, and her age on the back in paint pen, like so:

Not my finest paint-penmanship. The back was ripply, OKAY?

Other fancifying ideas I've seen floating around... adding food coloring to the dough, painting the finished ornament with acrylic paint or spray paint, applying a varnish for super shininess, etc.  I tend to like them plain, as they remind me of the ornaments I made as a kid.  That and you could not buy me enough eggnog lattes to step foot in Michael's right now. 

Aaaaaaaand, that's about it, folks.   Pop 'em on your tree and attach 'em to the gifts of your most sentimental family members... Insta-Awwws!  

One word of caution... If you have puppies, they will think you have whipped up a salty-delicious treat just for them, so hang your salt dough masterpieces out of doggie reach. 

*and also of a mama who sometimes pretend to be too cool for nostalgia but will treasure that teensy tinsy hand print until she breathes her last sarcastic breath. 


  1. I love this! I'm the jackass who got bought the overpriced and unnecessary Pottery Barn Kids kit to make this last year. Maybe we'll use your recipe to make them again this year for the family. Baby handprints are grandparent crack!

  2. Thanks for the tutorial! While I don't have a child of any size, I do have a cat that I love torturing....I think a teeny kitty paw print would be adorable!

  3. Aw we have one of these of my dad's handprint from when he was 5 -- when my little brother was 5 we made one of his hand, too. My mom hangs both on the tree next to each other :) #heartwarming

  4. Just did your bricks to bookends project a couple of weeks ago - love my Octopus wrapped bricks :) Thanks!

  5. Is it bad that I want to do them for my Boston Terrier? I'm a little kids craft-eager at the moment...I am a freak!

  6. If only this post was a week earlier--I did my own research and came up with a 'perfect' recipe but mine are still a little spongy. Whatever. Still painted them and am going for it. I love the dots around your edges Good call.

  7. Just pulled mine out of the oven. Thanks to you my three month old's grandparents will have sweet ornaments to unwrap this Christmas. :)

  8. I do not feel like running to the market to get parchment paper ( its ugly out there) Can I just use a non-stick spray instead?

    1. I don't blame you! I think you probably could... or maybe aluminum foil?

  9. I laughed out loud at your sarcasm. I feel the exact same way (she says, while running to preheat the oven.)

  10. perfect recipe and hilarious post! thanks for a great keepsake!

  11. Could I make these up to the point of baking, but then wait a few hours to bake (so that my oven is freed up for dinner prep)? Can't wait to try this project!

    1. Definitely! Some people actually let them air dry, but I gather that takes days.

    2. Definitely don't have days - need to take them out of town with me tomorrow to gift to grandparents! Thanks!!

  12. If I'm still single in a few years, I'm going to start making salt dough impressions of my fun earrings, or crazy shoe prints or something. I may start a blog about being a creepy single lady who does all the family holiday stuff herself because she can.


happy little comments!