Often called salt dough or bread dough, we call our completely handcrafted Christmas tree decorations “Dough Ornaments”. There are many ways to make dough ornaments, and many recipes. This is how we’ve been creating them for 37 years!
Calliope Designs recipe for Dough Ornaments
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup salt
½ cup water
For a natural color dough, mix these ingredients together, then knead the dough for at least 10 minutes. The desired consistency is a smooth dough, similar to real bread dough – not too sticky, not to dry. The exact portions of flour, salt and water are not as important as the consistency of the dough – so if it’s too sticky add more flour, if it’s too dry ad more water.
Place the dough in a plastic bag and protect it from getting dried out.
If you like to work with the natural colored dough, after the ornaments are formed and baked, you can paint them with acrylic paints.
For colored dough, you can use liquid or paste food coloring which should be added to the liquid measurement, then mixed into the dry ingredients. If you have access to powered nontoxic paints such as the type school children use, mix the dry color into the flour and salt mixture before adding water.
Experiment with different amounts of color. In general, the wet dough will be the color of the finished ornament after it is baked and glazed.
There are many ways to form the ornaments, and many books have been written on the subject. Please click on the section on our home page entitled How to Make Dough ornaments. This will show you two photos of our ornaments being constructed. You can see some of the common household tools we use to make dough ornaments. A kitchen knife, garlic press, toothpicks, and dough roller are a few. There is also a link to the Morton Salt Book called Dough It Yourself Handbook Rises Again, which has the very best instructions and lots of great examples and tips.
When your dough ornaments have been formed we recommend you bake them in a 225-degree oven until they are completely hardened. Sometimes this can take all night! They will not burn at this temperature. They have to be thoroughly dried through and through in order to be preserved.
After the ornaments are baked/dried and cooled it is time to glaze them. We prefer a shiny coating and so we use a high gloss polyurethane, and we dip our ornaments. We give them at least 4 coats of polyurethane, letting them dry for at least 24 hrs. between each coating. We trim off the drips using a sharp knife or razor blade.
Always store your dough ornaments in an airtight container in a dry place inside your home. No attics or basements, please! You can personalize them too using a fine tip permanent marker.
By the way, we learned how to make dough ornaments at a Christmas party at the home of John and Kathleen Holmes, Mill Valley, California! It was a really fun evening!