Salt Dough is an easy to master craft for both children and adults. Adults enjoy making dough crafted objects almost more than children, I believe this is because it reminds them of their
childhood days. Kneading Salt Dough at Christmas could become an annual ritual, along with making a
gingerbread house. In fact, you can make all sorts of Salt Dough models including jewellery earrings, necklaces and pendants.
Favourites include the Xmas Holly plaque below and the holly wreath (easy) or tree ornaments.
downloadable PDF version of this page is at the bottom of the page.
materials for Salt Dough craft are inexpensive. The basic ingredients are
ordinary plain household flour, without raising agent, plus household table salt and tap water. However, getting the proportions correct does help and can vary according to the recipe. I still
like the recipe below, which I first
used 15 years ago.
No special equipment, is
required to get results, but with extra equipment you can go to town
with ideas. Cookie cutters speed up the process, sugarcraft cutters are even better.
To get started
you need a large mixing bowl, a rolling pin, some baking trays, silicone
paper, a knife, a skewer or cocktail stick and a small scissors. Whilst you can use special
sugarcraft or cookie cutters, these are not essential to create dough objects.
If you do use them, wash and dry them well after use, as salt residue can cause metal cutters to rust quickly. You will also need some cornflour (cornstarch) or flour to dust dough items that need to
be rolled, rather
Let's begin with
a good Salt Dough recipe for average items. All the photographs of
shown on this page were made with this exact quantity of recipe. From this quantity I got two hand crafted
wreaths and one Xmas tree plaque, plus various Xmas tree ornaments made using
cookie cutters. Another page shows
the plaques decorated.
The tree ornaments also came out of the
remaining dough. Apart from the hand cut angel, these tree
ornaments were made using Wilton Christmas Collection of 10
Cookie Cutters that cost me £4.
If you want to buy the Wilton Collection de Noel, the product
stock number is 2304-802 and is easy to find online by using
the number with the word Wilton in Google. Although
discontinued by Wilton at their online store, you can still buy
this set of baking cutters at many other online cake and
sugarcraft suppliers. They work brilliantly with my
house recipe too.
Because the dough
loses modelling qualities quickly (within a few hours compared to clays), avoid
doubling up the recipe unless there are more people involved making items. I
almost always find this amount of dough recipe more than enough to handle
and bake dry in one session. Storage can also soon become a problem, so
work out where you might store these items. Once the models have finished baking, they need to be
painted and then a day or so later,
varnished a couple of times.
If you intend to
make lots of flat plaques like flat large decorative fish or houses, you should add wallpaper paste in the ratio of one part wallpaper paste to 8
parts flour and 8 parts salt, plus water to mix.
The flour must NOT be strong bread flour, as too much gluten would cause it to overstretch and not keep its modelling lines.
Use a mug with approximately 250 ml of water, the exact amount depends on the
gluten content of your flour. Do not make the water too
hot, but a little warmth helps dissolve the salt. Too hot and
the gluten will become overstretched and the dough will also get
Begin by heating your oven to 130
Prepare several flat baking trays with silicone
paper. Make any paper patterns you need. Locate any
cutters or tools you require before making the dough.
Don't grease the trays and use silicone paper in preference to
greaseproof paper for a smooth separation from the paper.
Pauline's Basic Salt Dough Paste Recipe 1
of plain flour
of table salt
Approx 1 mug of lukewarm warm water (about 250ml)
Measure level mugs of the ingredients as above.
Mix the 2 mugs of flour and 1 mug of table salt together in a bowl.
Make a 'well' in the centre of the mix and pour in about 1/2 of
the mug of water. Now use a knife to mix it all together.
The mixture may be a little dry so add the final
water just dessertspoon by dessertspoon, then teaspoon by teaspoon
until you achieve a dough pliable enough to knead.
There may be some dry pieces in the bowl, but
you may be able to knead that into the mix. You know that you have added enough
water when the dough is firm, but not crumbly. It should not
stick to your hands.
Now knead the dough on a smooth surface. Dust
with cornflour if it's needed. Knead
for 10 minutes. Don't cut out this kneading step. It really is
important to knead well to remove air bubbles and also work out
the coarseness of the salt. When the dough is ready, it
will feel smooth, pliable and warm to the touch. If you
don't knead the dough enough you will have uneven layers in your Salt Dough
The dough is now perfect for use.
I usually wrap
my bread craft dough in greaseproof or silicone paper. It
must be kept covered or it will dry and crack on the outside. Plastic
cling wraps make it rather sticky with time. Some people
leave it in a bowl covered with a damp tea towel. Just
find which works best for you, as the humidity in your home may
be very different from that in my kitchen.
My main recommendation is that once the dough
is made, you work quickly with it to model pieces.
Take the silicone paper that fits your tin and put it on your
work surface. I use pre-cut silicone circles in all my baking. I buy
them from Lakeland. They are worth very penny as they are perfect circles, you get
half a dozen sizes in a pack of 100 for about £4. The silicone paper
also means the dough never sticks as it can on tins and on greaseproof
For the plaited wreath take a piece of dough and
cut it into 3 even pieces. Roll them into long sausages fairly
even in size. Shape it into a plait circle and join the raw ends of
the plait by pinching them together as smoothly as possible.
Lift the paper supported wreath carefully onto
the baking tray.
Cut some holly leaves using a holly leaf cutter.
This is one cutter that is really worth buying as pastry holly
leaves can be used to decorate Xmas foods like mince pies. You can also just mould
holly leaves with your fingers or use the template
below and a scissors or knife to cut a holly leaf. Make the leaf
markings with the back of a round bladed knife. Use water to
position the leaves on the wreath ring.
Make a hole in the dough to loop your ribbon. Use a skewer to make a very definite hole that is
large enough not to close up in baking. To do this, wiggle the
skewer around until the hole is enlarged and about 5 to 7 mm.
Arrange little balls of dough for berries around
the hole. Make them in range of sizes, from small to
large. Stick them to the dough with just a little water.
If you prefer, make a metal hanger, using a paper clip or bent
hairgrip hooked deep into the wreath dough.
If you find making a
plait hard, just use two rolls of paste and fold one over each
other as in this picture to create a twist. It looks just
as good when done and is also more robust.
Take a lump of dough and roll out the dough for flat pieces directly onto the
silicone paper. Move that onto your baking tin. Now work
directly on the flat rolled piece of dough on the tin.
Use a plate as a guide to cut away excess paste
from the outside. Now use a smaller plate or bowl to cut
out the inner paste from the circle. I used an upside down ice
cream bowl with a stem base which was easier to handle than a
saucer when cutting the
Next, cut out about 14 holly leaves. Mark each
leaf with leaf veins as above. Then have ready some water
and a brush, carefully arrange the holly leaves evenly around the paste
circle. Make 3 or 4 berries for each holly leaf and again
stick them to the wreath with a little water.
Make sure you make one or two holes so you can hang the
If you prefer, make a dozen or so Christmas
roses, or crackers or mini Xmas trees or snowmen instead of
Bake the wreath at 120 degrees centigrade for
about 2 hours until dry. If preferred used the half microwave
The templates above enlarge and can be printed to A4 size.
XMAS TREE PLAQUE
Use any size
of the pattern provided or draw your own tree.
To make the garlands use a tin flan cutter or
scalloped cutter and cut a circle from rolled out dough.
Move the cutter about 5 or 6mm and cut a trimming off the round. Repeat this several times. Now pick up one piece and dampen the
back slightly with water. As you take it off your work
surface it will inevitably stretch, but use this fact to your
advantage to make the garland fit a place on the tree.
To make the holes I used the point of a ball point pen. You could use a skewer or a cocktail stick. These holes help the garland stick well to the tree and can also be used as a
support for seed beads, pearls or dragees when the item is decorated.
The bow on the tree flowerpot is simply a strip
of thin Salt Dough shaped and made into an illusion of a bow.
Cut a star, dampen the back and position it as a tree topper.
It is very important that you either make 2
holes toward the tree top to later insert a ribbon hanger. Or,
use a paper clip at the tree top before baking dry.
Bake the Xmas tree until dry.
Pictures of the coloured and varnished Salt Dough items will
When working with Salt Dough paste, remember these simple
guidelines and you will have greater success.
It is impossible to be precise about the
addition of the water, as the
gluten content of all flour varies from milling to milling
batch. For Salt Dough I
always use the cheapest supermarket brand of household flour
without raising agent at around
40 pence for a 1.5kg bag. Never use strong bread flour.
For larger items that need a rolling pin, do this rolling
out directly onto a piece of silicone paper. As you carefully lift the
paper onto your tin, support the item with a plate, or slide it from a work
board into the tin. The larger the item the more care you need. Try a few ways until you find your best personal preference. You can also roll out directly on a rimless baking
sheet or a rimmed baking sheet, but may need a smaller sugarcraft rolling pin to do this well.
Salt Dough should be baked
as soon as it is modelled.
My own experience has left me with the firm belief that the dough
should be prepared within a half hour of
intending to model with it. If you can use it as soon as
kneaded, so much the better. I do appreciate that in teaching situations sometimes you may have to prepare a batch of modelling dough. But try to do it as near to the modelling
session as possible, a maximum of one hour before using.
Bread craft modelling dough goes off rapidly if it is kept for hours. The longer you leave it before
modelling, the less the dough retains shapes and markings.
Dough a day old will not produce anything like the definition of fresh
modelling dough. You can almost see the indentations weakening and
becoming limp as the shape collapses with time.
Baking should be in a slow oven or the dough can catch and darken.
This darkening is not as important as some make out, especially if you intend to paint the item
anyway. You can use an egg yolk and water wash on parts intended to be left
natural. Whilst I like this look, I have found if you get the slightest
drop of egg wash on other parts you cannot easily paint colours over the egg
glaze. So now if I want any item to be golden I use my own mix of
yellow gold paints to achieve that and have abandoned using egg wash
You can fully slow bake the items in an ordinary domestic
oven at 120 degrees centigrade.
You can also use the microwave oven. You can do as I do
and just half bake the Salt Dough in the ordinary oven to
set the moulded impressions before the contours collapse. To speed up the drying
out process, you can then microwave items for a minute or so
at a time, until the Salt Dough item is dried out. You will need to
rest the items on a cooling rack, as with ordinary cooked items between
To make cooking in the microwave easy use a large fish
slice utensil to lift the silicone paper with the item. Place it on
the glass microwave dish where you have already placed 3 sheets of kitchen
roll. The kitchen roll layers will help absorb the steam given off from the liquid
that comes out of the Salt Dough craft item. Be careful when you
handle the items. Because they are not fully hard they can when large
bend too much so I caution care when handling.
I think Salt Dough is best left at least a day in a centrally heated
home or in a dry airing cupboard before painting to ensure they are quite
paint with watercolours, gouache paints, emulsion paints or acrylic paints.
After that varnish the item with either wood varnish or yacht varnish.
Water based varnishes are not as good, as you are trying to keep moisture out
of the baked item. Spray varnish is also costly and not as effective
as two or three coats of wood varnish. To my mind, Salt Dough craft
looks far better with a glossy or silk varnish finish than matt varnish
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