Choosing the right gifts for the many special people in our lives can be a daunting task. What present will be just right? Ultimately, the quest can be time-consuming and expensive, sometimes adding more stress than joy to the holiday season.
And let’s face it. Even the most well-intentioned gifts are often stuffed in a drawer or closet, never to be used or enjoyed.
When my boys were little, we’d pick a craft that they could make on their own (perhaps with a little help from Mom) and the recipient could put to good use. Projects ranged from pinecone birdfeeders to hand painted picture frames. Christmas tree ornaments were always a safe bet. Rather than becoming clutter, ornaments can go straight to the tree.
In addition to their clear purpose, handcrafted ornaments improve with age. As the years go by, who doesn’t love to look back on crafts made by the precious hands of a young child—or even a teenager for that matter? They take us back to an earlier time and place, rekindling memories that bolster the holiday spirit.
My children were always proud to give gifts that they created instead of bought. Even now that they’re older and have a little spending money of their own, we still brainstorm something to make for their dad and grandparents each year. In addition to being practical and thoughtful, it’s become a fun tradition.
The following recipe uses a combination of pantry and household items to create a dough that can be rolled out and cut into a variety of shapes and sizes. The shapes dry into sturdy, long-lasting ornaments that aren’t edible but smell wonderful. Left unadorned, they have a rustic look, but for added fun, they can be decorated in a variety of ways. We love the addition of some festive sparkle. Use them as a gift topper or a present in and of themselves.
- 3/4 cup (6 ounces) applesauce (plus a few tablespoons as needed)
- 1 (4-ounce) container ground cinnamon (or about 1 cup)
- 2 tablespoons (30 grams) white liquid glue (such as Elmer's glue)
- Twine or ribbon for hanging
- Straw, skewer, pencil or piping tip to make hole
- Royal icing (recipe available at fountainavenuekitchen.com), glitter glue, small beads, etc., for decorating
- Mix together the 3/4 cup applesauce, ground cinnamon, and glue until well combined. Add more applesauce, a tablespoon at a time, as needed, to form a soft dough. Knead with your hands until the dough is smooth.
- Roll out the dough. I like to roll it between 2 pieces of parchment paper to approximately 3/8-inch thickness. (You can make thicker ornaments; they will simply take a little longer to dry out.) Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Use a straw, skewer, piping tip or pencil to punch a hole near the top of the ornament for a ribbon. (Make sure to do this now. Once the ornaments have dried out, they will be too hard to make a hole.)
- Place the ornaments on a parchment-lined baking sheet. As I transfer them, I use my finger to soften any rough edges. Dry in a 200-degree F oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. I usually flip them halfway through, but this isn’t critical. As an option, you may allow the ornaments to air dry for 3 to 4 days, flipping about once per day.
- Once dry, decorate as desired and then insert a ribbon through the hole for hanging.
- To vary the aroma, ground cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and/or pumpkin pie spice can be mixed with the ground cinnamon.
- We got 11 standard-size ornaments from our last batch. I used the scraps to make a few smaller shapes and a bunch of beads for my nieces to make necklaces. The yield will vary based on the thickness of the dough once rolled and the size of the cookie cutters used.
- The recipe may be doubled if desired.
For the drying process, you’ll want to place the ornaments on a parchment-lined baking sheet. As I transfer them, I use my finger to soften any rough edges. Depending on how soon you wish to decorate, you can use the oven or air-dry method for this.
Once dry, decorate as desired and then insert a ribbon through the hole for hanging.