Salt Dough Ornaments: DIY Snowflake Christmas Decorations
These salt dough ornaments make lovely handmade gifts and/or gift wrap accessories. They are created with just a few simple kitchen ingredients and you don’t need to be crafty to make them. They always say that baking is more science than art! I plan to combine the two.
This was a simple, joyful craft for me and I’ve carefully documented the steps, so you can enjoy making them, too. With set up and clean up, it took about 1 hour to make them. This doesn't include refrigeration time or baking time. Here's the process...
MIX & KNEAD YOUR SALT DOUGH
Before you begin this project, I want to share the most important tip. The secret to a nice salt dough is adding just enough water (not too much) to the dry ingredients. Everyone’s dough will have a little different moisture requirement, so the 1/2 cup of water is just a baseline measurement. Do not pour the entire 1/2 cup of water in all at once. Start with a little water and knead. I’ll walk you through the process more down below.
Add 1/2 cup of salt and 1 cup of All Purpose Flour to a mixing bowl. Do not use self-rising flour.
Then add about 1/8 cup of lukewarm water and start to knead the dough. After about 4 minutes of kneading, the dough should start to come together, like in the picture above. If not, add a little more water (about a tablespoon).Once the dough starts to clump together, but still has crumbles falling from it, add about 1 more tablespoon of water. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes total. When it stays together with no crumbles, it’s ready. You want your dough to stay together but it shouldn’t be sticky.
When I was done, I had about 1/8 cup of the water leftover. So in total, I used 3/8 cup of water to make the dough. Yours may be more or less depending on your flour and humidity.
Next, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 40 minutes. It’s important to refrigerate your dough for two reasons. First, cold dough is easier to roll out and second when you bake the dough, it helps prevent the shapes from spreading. Also, never put cookie cut-outs on a warm cookie sheet, as they will loose their shape. Use a room temperature cookie sheet lined with parchment paper for easy cleanup.
It’s important that all of your ornaments are the same thickness so they dry evenly. I rolled my dough to 1/4″ thick. They make spacer bands for rolling pins to make this process easier. Since I didn’t have them, I used two 1/4″ thick MDF boards an each side of my dough.
CUT OUT YOUR SNOWFLAKE SHAPES
These are nice quality cookie cutters. I chose these particular cutters because of the intricate cut-out design in the middle of each snowflake. Just don't wash metal cutters in the dishwasher as they are prone to rust. Always dip your cutter in flour before each use. To make it easier to remember, I just left them in the flour when I wasn’t using them.
Position your cutters so you get the maximum number of cuts for each piece of rolled dough. Once done, add all of the extra bits and extra dough back together in a ball and roll them out again. With the middle of the one cutter being a separate smaller ornament, I had very little wasted dough.
Make sure to press your cutter firmly down, so the center cut-outs go all the way through the dough. You can see in the picture that only the top center cut-out went all the way through.
Because of the intricate design, you will need a way to “pop” the snowflake out of the cutter. I used the flat end of a wooden skewer to gently press the edges of the dough out of the cutter. The next time I make these ornaments, I will try using a Q-tip since the skewer left some little round circles in a few of my ornaments.
This is just a different angle so you can see that I held the cutter close to the parchment paper.
In this picture you can see the circles left behind from the end of the skewer. Once I painted the ornaments and added glitter the circles weren’t very noticeable. You can also see in this picture the center cut-outs I was talking about earlier. If you don’t firmly press down the cookie cutter, you get a jagged lip on the bottom of the inside cut-outs. These can be filed off with a nail file once the ornaments are dry, but it would be better to not have this extra step. I chose to put the twine for my ornaments through one of the center cut-outs of the snowflakes, but if you want to add an extra hole you can use a straw to cut it. I did add a hole to the middle of each mini ornament. You can use your skewer to pop the dough out of the straw in between uses. One recipe of this dough made a total of 15 medium size (3 inch) ornaments and 11 of the mini (1.5 inch) center cut outs.
BAKE THE ORNAMENTS TO DRY AND HARDEN
Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees. If you rolled your ornaments to 1/4″ thick, it will take 4 hours to fully dry them in the oven. After the first two hours, flip the ornaments over and place them back in the oven for the final two hours. If your ornaments are thicker than 1/4″ it will taker longer to dry them. You can also air dry the ornaments, but it will take multiple days for them to fully dry. I didn’t try this method, so I cannot comment on the outcome.
DECORATE YOUR ORNAMENTS
The salt dough ornaments are naturally a similar color to sugar cookies. I wanted my snowflakes to be more of a true (creamy) white, so I painted them with Waverly Chalk in Plaster. Another nice color is Rust-Oleum’s Chalked in Linen white. I’ve read that you can add paint directly to the dough, but I didn’t try it because I was concerned about food safety. I use the same mixing bowls, rolling pins and cutters for making cookies, so adding paint seemed a little unhealthy. I was also concerned about heating the paint in the oven (possible chemical smells). Lastly, I figured the moisture in the paint would throw off the ratio of dry vs. wet ingredients.
Once the paint was dry, I poured some Mod Podge on a paper plate and dipped the snowflakes into it. Then I off-loaded the adhesive onto another empty paper plate. Finishing them up with a sprinkle of glitter. Once they were dry, I flipped them over and did the other side. Then to seal in the glitter, top-coat them with another layer of Mod Podge. If you choose to skip the glitter, be sure to seal in your chalk paint with some type of top coat.