Salt Dough Ornaments: A Happy Little Accident

This post is part of the {Mostly} Handmade Tree Series.  Click for parts: One. Two. Three.

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you probably saw these pictures of the salt dough ornament process:

You may have also noticed that these little beauties below are nowhere to be found on my tree.  That’s because this is as pretty as they got.  When they dried, they sort of puffed up and there wasn’t as much definition in the design, they totally cracked and were sort of an ugly brown color. (I’m going to try a cornstarch dough recipe and polymer clay I’ve found since, so I’ll let you know how that goes.)

I had visions of pretty white, homemade looking salt dough ornaments and that’s not how they turned out, until…I came up with a solution for the stars that made them better (in my opinion) than I had imagined in the first place.  So let me back up and tell you about how I ultimately ended up with these:

Every salt dough recipe I found seemed to be basically the same, so it most definitely wasn’t the recipe’s fault, though I think there were a few things I could have done differently if I wanted a whiter, prettier salt dough ornament.  The recipe was:

4 cups flour
1 cup salt
1&1/2 cups warm water

The original recipe I found missed the memo on mixing the flour and salt together before pouring the water in.  SLOWLY.  It just said “dump it all together.”  I know the basics of baking are dry ingredients first, but did I ever mention I HATE baking?  Problem numero uno–noted. Also, the recipe I read neglected to say warm water, and my basic 8th grade chemistry knowledge tells me that the warm water probably would have dissolved the salt a little better.  Again, noted.  Third, the dough was really sticky, so even though it says to roll it out on a floured surface, I’m pretty sure I over-floured and thus caused the cracking of my ornaments.

The biggest mistake of all though was where the happy accident came into play.  When I Googled how to dry the ornaments, I found some recipe that said to bake them at 325 for like an hour.  Which, I’ll admit, seemed like a high temp for something that’s essentially supposed to dry out but, of course, I didn’t go with my gut and I stuck the stars in the oven.  And they baked.  Like a cookie.  Puffed up.  Turned brown and flaky.  I thought they were ruined and decided to give a last ditch effort to salvage them with paint and glitter because, really, what can’t paint and glitter save?  Ta-da!  Handmade perfection!

So…for these salt dough ornaments:
Follow the recipe I mentioned above:

4 cups flour
1 cup salt
1&1/2 cups warm water

*Mix the flour and salt together first, then add warm water gradually.  Stir and then knead into a dough.  Roll out the dough about 1/2″ thick on a floured surface.

*Cut out your shapes

*Bake at 325 for about an hour.  This was actually key, because the fact that they puffed up is sort of what makes them so cute.
*Once baked and cooled, sand the edges (they will be rough) with a fine sand paper.
*Spray paint the stars white (or color of your choice)
*While the paint is still wet, pour glitter over them and shake off the excess.
*Once first coat of paint and glitter is dry, spray with a clear coat to keep glitter from rubbing off.
*Tie a piece of twine in a knot and hot glue it on for a hanger (I originally poked holes in the dough, but they baked shut, so I just glued the twine over it).

And there you have a little bit of a different take on the classic salt dough ornament.

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  1. says

    I’ve always wanted to do a homemade tree with salt dough ornaments, strings of popcorn and cranberries and whatnot. Now that you’ve perfected the recipe this may have to be the year.

    • says

      I love popcorn garlands. I totally had plans to do it this year and just ran out of time. Maybe next year when my daughter can actually help ;)

  2. says

    i had the same problem with salt dough! I tried to do my kid’s thumbprints in some stars about that size, but ended up painting/glittEring over them at like 3am when they had *finally* dried! :)

    • says

      I’m glad to know I’m not the only one. We did the hand print too and it dried out so bad that you couldn’t even tell what it was after a day or two.

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