Salt Dough Recipe – Play with Food
Remember making those salt dough works of art in elementary school? In many families, making these into holiday ornaments is a tradition. If made right, they can last indefinitely and make nice heirlooms.
This is a really fun project to do crafts with kids. Expressing themselves through modeling clay and art is great entertainment for children and adults, and it becomes special when it’s fun for children and adults together. Many people have created salt dough art in their years at elementary school and we’ve carried it on as a tradition for making holiday ornaments as well as centerpieces for tables and trinket dishes. They can easily be made to look like porcelain or real bread, depending on what you’ve built with the dough, and it can be used all the time, not just at holiday time.
Salt dough has a history that goes all the way back to ancient Egypt. They had an abundance of salt and flour and they were highly skilled artisans who made idols and artwork in much the same way as we use the salt dough today.
For This Quick and Easy Recipe You will need:
- 2 cups of any kind of flour
- 1 cup of table salt – the grainy kind, not chunky
- 1 cup (or more) of water
- Waxed paper, butcher’s wrap or other nonstick paper
- A bowl
- A spoon
- A spatula to lift them from the paper
- Baking sheets
- Tools to model the dough like clay
FYI: You don’t need to turn on the oven until it’s time to bake your creations, because the temperature is so low and they take a couple of hours to bake, so it doesn’t warrant using the energy to warm it for later use.
Put the salt and flour in the bowl and mix them together, then pour in the water and mix it with your hands until it’s thoroughly combined. The spoon won’t do it, as the dough is thick like bread dough when properly done. The longer you mix it, the smoother the dough gets.
If the dough is sticking to your hands, put more flour in and knead it into the dough. It shouldn’t stick to your hands when it’s done right. On the flipside, if the dough is dry and won’t mix in all the flour or cracks easily, add just a little more water and knead it in.
Tips for Making Salt Dough Art Sculptures
To begin molding the dough, roll out a length of waxed paper to work on. That way cleanup is easy, it doesn’t stick to the table, and transferring it onto the pan is easy, too. Tear off a hunk of dough and start working it on the paper. It’s good to remember to make all the pieces the same thickness or the thicker ones may not finish baking inside when the thinner pieces are done. Plus, thicker pieces have the tendency to warp or bubble up, and whatever the piece was ends up being fat. A good thickness is ¼ to ½ inch.
If you want to make balls, or pieces that are thick by design (like snowmen), simply make a foil (or paper) ball – or whatever the shape – and cover the outside with dough, so it still cooks evenly with the other pieces on the pan.
Attach pieces of dough together by wetting the parts where they’ll touch and then press them together gently. Sometimes a piece might need a little touchup after being pressed together, too, and don‘t forget to make a hole for hanging items. Use your best imagination and create pieces with lots of detail, they bake at such a low temp that plastic and wood don’t burn or melt, so add-ons are encouraged. Use plastic eyes, buttons, a key ring, lamp pull, plastic flowers, toothpicks, all kinds of accessories. If you don’t want to bake them on, you can also glue them on after baking. A garlic press makes nice ‘hair’.
Make Centerpieces With Salt Dough
Salt dough can be made to look just like real bread, too, put a nice bowl on the table with finished ‘bread‘ in it. People will pick them up, smell them and ask if they’re real, because they won’t be too sure. Here’s some ideas to make:
- Hot Cross Buns
- Bread Braids
- Bread Rings
- Cinnamon Rolls
**Remember to bake items of like thicknesses.
Before baking them, brush the ‘bread’ tops with egg whites that have been stirred with a teaspoon of water. They’ll come out looking so delicious you’ll wish you’d baked real bread. These look great on the table in a basket. Tiny bread sculptures can be made for a restaurant or kitchen holiday tree or light pull, they’re really cute.
Put as many as you can on the baking sheet, they won’t rise (unless they’re too thick) or touch each other while baking, unless you place them touching on the pan. Then they will bake together and you’ll have to break them apart and hope they look okay. So place them close but not touching each other.
Turn on the oven to 250(f) degrees, place the pan inside and bake them for 2.5 hours before checking them. If they come out and are nicely hard, even in the center, they’re done. If they’re still soft in the center, give them another half an hour in the oven. Put the finished items on a cooling rack.
It’s All in the Details
Acrylic paint works very well on salt dough, and if done right can make very detailed works of art. Have fun and be creative. Make sure the paint covers the entire piece, leave no bare spots. The paint will effectively seal the piece, preventing moisture from ever getting to it – you don’t want them to biodegrade before you. A couple of nice thick coats of clear shellac or plastic varnish of some kind. This makes them very shiny and look like a pro made them!
If you’re sculpting trinket dishes and the like, you can actually dip the pieces in pearlescent white paint and they come out looking like porcelain. The do look great with it brushed on, as well, and add color definition to them. Allow them to dry completely between coats.
At last are the details. After your pieces have thoroughly dried (at least 24 hours), add the wire or ribbon to hang them, or whatever the finishing touches are.
When not in use, store them in a DRY, cool place. If moisture gets to them, they will biodegrade. If you keep them dry, they will last for decades to come. This writer owns some made 23 years ago by her children. Some of them break every year, and that’s okay. We make more.
www.ancientnile.co.uk/saltdough.phpwww.cooks.com/rec/search/0,1-0,dough_art,FF.htmlThis is an activity the writer and her grandchildren do every year at holiday time.