Some of the sweetest ornaments on our tree are the nostalgic salt dough ornaments the girls made when they were toddlers and in preschool. The cinnamon dough versions they made are also really cute. I love their charm and simplicity! Every year, as we decorate the tree, all those memories of their toddler days wash over me as I unbox their homemade ornaments.
Last weekend, as we were doing our holiday cookie baking, I was thinking of the springerle cookies my mom would make every so often. Now, those were commitment cookies! She had a special rolling pin she used with these abstract bird and flower patterns on it. They were pretty, but the dough had to sit out overnight. And, to be honest, unlike my favorite molasses sugar cookies, I never really cared for their anise taste or the texture. They weren’t really crunchy or chewy, and kind of bland in my opinion.
However, last weekend as I was getting out all the rolling pins and cookie cutters for cookie baking, I came across the very same springerle pin my mom used all those years ago. I really did not want to make the cookies, but seeing the pin brought back all of those holiday memories. I thought it would be fun to capture my German heritage and our baking tradition in salt dough.
How to Make Nostalgic Salt Dough Ornaments
Making the dough for these nostalgic salt dough ornaments could not be easier. If you’ve never made salt dough ornaments, it’s the perfect craft to make with young kids. All you need is flour, table salt, and water. This is one dough you will not want them to taste, though. Ick! The dough gets stiff very quickly as you make it but once everything is kneaded in, it’s very pliable and easy to roll. Since you won’t be eating these, you can use generic and inexpensive brands and save some money. My particular version makes what I would call a small batch, but it’s still plenty for several ornaments.
In a large bowl, combine 2 cups of all-purpose flour, half a cup of salt, and three-quarters of a cup of water. Stir it all together with a spoon and once it gets too stiff, start kneading it with your hands. In just a few minutes, you should be able to get it into a rough ball shape. That’s it!
Rolling the Salt Dough
I started out rolling the dough between two sheets of parchment paper with a regular pin. However, the dough really wasn’t sticky. After a few passes, I removed the top sheet of parchment and just used the rolling pin with no issues. Once I got the flour rolled out to about a quarter-inch thickness, I was ready to use the springerle pin. Using firm and even pressure, I pushed the pin down and rolled it into the dough. The end result was a distinctive yet subtle print. If you like the idea of embossing, but don’t have a springerle pin, embossing pins like these would also make really lovely salt dough ornaments!
Salt Dough Ornament Cutting Tips
- If you use regular cookie cutters to make salt dough ornaments instead of an embossing pin, I recommend rolling the dough directly onto the cookie sheet. Press your cookie cutters into the dough and then remove the excess dough. By doing it this way, you don’t have to transfer the cut out shapes to the cookie sheet.
- Work quickly. Even though this is a flexible dough, eventually it will get to the point where the cutters won’t come out easily.
- Use the end of a straw to put holes in your dough. This ensures adequate space for the ribbon. I used a toothpick to make the holes in the springerle since they’re small. I had to wiggle it around quite a bit to make sure my string would still fit through the hole once they were baked.
Baking and Decorating Salt Dough
I baked my ornaments at 300 degrees for half an hour. Once cooled, the dough was hard as a rock. I painted them with acrylic paint, using a thin craft brush. The paint dries quickly and then you have the option of using a finishing spray to seal the paint.
Finally, I carefully threaded the string through the hole at the top of the ornaments. I love the fact that I can look at these springerle ornaments every year and feel connected to my German heritage.
What are the holiday decorations that speak to your family heritage? I’d love to hear what they are in the comments!