Hannah Meredith loves to tell stories that examine the vagaries of the human heart. She writes primarily historical romance, although an occasional fantasy romance has been known to sneak in. She’s a social media dud, but would love to hear from you via her website. Today she stops by to talk about making salt dough Christmas ornaments and a new multi-author Christmas anthology of Regency romance novellas.
Cookie Christmas Ornaments Serve Up Family Memories
The year our son Rob turned six, my husband took a job in a small town in southern Virginia, and we bought an old house with large rooms and high ceilings. The corner of the den was the perfect place for a big Christmas tree. My imagination saw it there even though it was the middle of the summer when we moved in.
Over the Thanksgiving weekend that first year, my husband and son went to a friend’s farm and cut the perfect tree. Great excitement abounded when we wrestled it from the bed of the pickup and with a lot of extra help, got it set into a bucket of water on the carport. It was then I realized this wasn’t just a big tree, it was massive.
I lamented that we wouldn’t have enough ornaments to make such a tree even look like it was decorated. My neighbor disappeared into her house and returned with a bag of Christmas cookie cutters and a recipe card. “Salt dough cookie ornaments,” she said—and a tradition was born.
That year, Rob helped me make dozens of cookies, and every couple of years thereafter, we added new ones, our choices becoming more elaborate as Rob got older. Eventually, we made our own tracing paper patterns from pictures in coloring books or on Christmas cards. I’ve followed the same routine with all the grandkids, and our ornaments now adorn a variety of trees. For my own tree, still massive but now artificial and located in an old house with high ceilings in North Carolina, every time I hang one of the cookies, I have wonderful memories of creating it with someone I love.
|A selection from the author’s cookie cutter collection|
Salt Dough Cookie Ornaments
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup table salt
1 cup tap water (approximate)
1 spray can polyurethane
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Mix flour and salt together with a fork or whisk until well blended. Add water a little at a time until the dough forms a ball.
Move the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes until the consistence is similar to pizza dough.
Roll out the dough to about 1/4" thickness. (See Note)
Cut out cookies with selected cutters. Make a hole at the top with anything from a toothpick to a straw so you have a place to insert some yarn or ribbon for a hanger.
Carefully transfer to a cookie sheet with a spatula, and bake for 30-45 minutes. You want the cookies very hard, but they need not be browned.
Let cool completely.
Paint the cookies with acrylic paint. The original recipe said poster paint, but I’ve found artist acrylics are less messy to use and have more vibrant colors.
After the paint dries completely, spray both sides with fast drying spray polyurethane, one side at a time, allowing sealer to dry before turning over.
If stored in tissue paper in a cardboard box, these ornaments will last for years. Many of mine are over 40 years old. Putting the box in either a damp basement or a hot attic is not particularly good, however. I have, alas, done both, and many of the older ornaments are now wavy rather than flat.
Note: The “best” thickness depends on what you’re cutting out. If you’re using a paper pattern from a picture and cutting the dough with a knife (such as the old-fashioned train engine in the picture), you’ll need to roll the dough to a thickness of about 1/8”. To get the dough this thin, roll it out on parchment paper sized to fit your cookie sheet. After cutting out the shapes, remove the excess dough, leaving the cookies where they are on the paper. Then transfer the paper to the cookie sheet and bake. Otherwise thin cookies are prone to become misshapen in the transfer process.
The thicker the cookie, the more likely it is to puff up. This sometimes looks cool for shapes like Santa faces or bells. The only problem is that you can’t control where they will “puff” so be prepared to throw away those that look peculiar.
Christmas Revels VI
Come Revel with four award-winning authors and discover Regency Christmas tales filled with laughter, tears, and love…
“Her Ladyship Orders a Christmas Tree” by Anna D. Allen – A pagan custom leads to an unexpected attraction.
“The Play’s the Thing…” by Hannah Meredith – Going off script prompts a surprise ending.
“Yuletide Treachery” by Kate Parker – Two lonely people find a traitor—and love.
“A Perfectly Unexpected Christmas” by Louisa Cornell – An accident brings redemption and a homecoming.