Friday, November 21, 2014

Rustic Homemade Christmas Tree: Baking Soda and Cornstarch Dough Snowflake Ornaments

The minute I got a good batch of this dough whipped up, I knew the first thing I wanted to try: snowflakes. Perhaps it is related to the paper snowflake obsession, maybe it is the fact that I was born during a snowstorm in Seattle (where it doesn't snow all that much), or maybe it is just because I am weird, but I love decorating with snowflakes. They are just so pretty. But first, we must make the dough.

My Mom has been making salt dough for us my entire life, and it is great for playing with. But it doesn't hold a candle to this stuff. I learned about this as "baking soda" dough, but evidently my Mother had done this before as well, she just called it cornstarch dough. There is technically twice as much baking soda as cornstarch, but the cornstarch probably deserves more credit for the awesome silky texture. But this is really neither here nor there. What does matter is that this dough is much nicer to play with and dries a lot nicer than salt dough. Plus it is super easy to make.

Baking Soda and Cornstarch Dough

1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup of water

Mix the baking soda with cornstarch in a saucepan. Add water and mix. Because of the cornstarch it will take a bit of slow mixing. For anyone not familiar with cornstarch and water (in which case you need to make up a batch and play with it for a couple of hours or a day), pressure makes it harden, so the faster you mix, the harder it will be to mix. Once everything is combined, cook it over medium heat until it balls up. Put the mixture in another bowl to cool. You may want to put a wet cloth over the top to keep it from drying out on the edges. Once it is cool--or before if you are impatient and don't mind very minor burns (not that I did that or anything)--knead the dough. Use immediately or wrap up and put in the fridge for later.

I am not exactly sure how long this will keep. It dries out rather quickly in comparison to salt dough, so I would suspect it won't keep quite as long as drying out is usually what causes me to toss the salt dough.

First, this stuff makes fantastic ornaments of all kinds. Simply roll out the dough about an inch thick and cut out your ornaments. Cookie cutters work great. Once you have the shapes you wish dried, either just let them sit for a day or so (depending on the humidity in your area) or speed up the process in a cool oven (200-250 degrees). I popped mine in the oven for probably 15 minutes and they came out perfect, but again, this can vary by climate.

To make my snowflakes, I used a snowflake cookie cutter that I already had to make the basic snowflake shape. If you are not so fortunate to have a snowflake cutter, you can also make yourself a template out of paper or simply mark guides on the clay so that you can see the 6 separate points as you work.

If you are lucky enough to have some geometric pastry cutters, use those. If you are like me and lacking in the geometric pastry cutter category, I just made some out of wire. I just bent the wire into the right shape and left a tail for the handle. I used a drinking straw for my circle cuts and I also used it to push down the side of the wire cutters that did not have the handle for pressure. These do work, but they are not the most perfect cutters ever. I would recommend the pastry cutters

I then just cut out parts of the snowflake to my heart's content. no two of my snowflakes are alike, just like in real life.

I do have favorites, though.

Aren't they beautiful?

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