donut pan idea no. 33: salt dough ornaments

This one was really fun. I knew I wanted to make these, but wasn't sure where they were going to end up. Housebound for the day during the wicked rains this past weekend, we ended up scouring the cabinets for materials, and here's exactly where we ended up.

With salt dough ornaments! Some with alphabet pasta lettering, others with random kitchen ingredients, some with twine, some with nothing but a loop to hang them by. Stella and Oliver kept themselves busy with the first batch of dough while I took the second and made these. Pretty, and full of potential to be so many things!

You should know right away that these things take about a day to dry out well (six hours in a low oven and then overnight on the counter). The active making time is much quicker.

For eight ornaments you will need 1 c. water, 1 c. table salt and 2 c. flour for the dough, plus a little more flour if your dough is too loose after you've mixed it. You will need things to embed into the ornaments if you wish to add detail. I used alphabet pasta to embed holiday wishes into the dough. I also embedded coffee beans (which didn't look great) and bigger sea salt flakes (more of a top-coating) because that's what we had around. You will need ribbon or baker's twine for hanging. Having a chopstick and an upholstery needle on hand will be really helpful as well.

Other fun ideas:
Embed star anise
Mix white glitter into the dough
Paint or spray paint them
Glue little pinecones or spruce-y greenery to the face to make little wreaths (I loved this)
Wrap entire donut with beautiful yarn

I love an easy recipe like this! Dump the 1 c. water, 1 c. table salt and 2 c. flour in a mixing bowl, take off your jewelry and mix it all together with your hands.

After about thirty seconds it'll all come together like this.....

.....but then you need to knead it for 7-10 more minutes to get the salt broken down and the dough smooth like shown below.

Next, measure out a palm size ball of dough (3 1/2 oz. to be exact). Use the gluten-cloaking method from bread shaping to get a very smooth, crease-free top and sides to the ball. Basically, just pull the dough back off of the face and tuck it into the back, pulling the front smooth. This is the side of the dough ball that will eventually go face down into the pan. I hope that makes sense to you!

Now, using your index finger, gently poke a hole all the way through the ball of dough, as close to the center as you possibly can.

If you're not embedding anything into the face of the ornament, stretch the center hole by twirling it slowly on your finger until it widens a bit, then place the dough SMOOTH FACE DOWN into the donut pan cavity.

I decided to have a gentle round bump around the back of my ornaments, so I pressed the inner and outer edges in as I flattened the dough into the pans. Feel free to try a flat back, or maybe something concave by pressing a second donut pan into the dough after you've pressed the dough into the pan.

If you do want to embed something, I do recommend the alphabet pasta. It was really fun to spell out different phrases with the letters. I might do a second batch with some Christmasy puns, if I can think of some!

After gently but firmly pressing the letters into the smooth face of the donut of dough, carefully widen the hole in the middle and press face down into the pan.

The salt idea I could take or leave. It looks a bit like snow on the final product but eroded the smooth face of the dough. The coffee beans just reminded me how awesome it would've been if I had star anise around. They smell good, but I ended up picking them out and using it for a base for greenery.

I only poked a hole in one of the ornaments for a hanger to go through, and it closed back up during baking. It was easy to stick a chopstick through and reopen the hole, so you can wait and do it afterwards if you want holes. I also made a pattern of shallow grooves on the inner and outer edges of a few to help hold some decorative twine in place once they were baked. 

Just pop those in a 200ยบ oven for six hours, then let pans cool on a rack for at least an hour. After an hour they are stable enough to be removed from the pans, and release much easier.

When ready to remove the ornaments from the pans, you can try turning the pans upside down and rapping them on a counter covered with a kitchen towel. They really must be fully cooled on and their way to being really dried out for this to work well. It worked perfectly for me. If you are having trouble, you could gently tap the back of the overturned pans with a hammer or mallet. Put something like a potholder in between the hammer and the pans or you will dent them.

Let the donuts sit with their smooth, embedded sides UP on a cooling rack overnight to continue drying.

I had a lot of fun decorating these. I wrapped twine around the ones that I had put the little grooves into and tied them up cutely. On others, I used a chopstick to press through the donuts so I had somewhere to thread the hanging ribbons. The upholstery needle makes quick work of getting the ribbons through the holes.

I glued candy-striped ribbons to some of the other ornaments, and some only received ribbon or twine hangers. But some of my favorite ones I made are in the photos below. I hot glued pieces of some beautiful greenery which I got a nearby Prarie Collective and made the cutest little wreaths!

These little wreath-shaped ornaments can be the backing for all sorts of great holiday projects. How about more salt dough shapes glued to the front of them, like holly leaves and berries? The possibilities are kind of endless!


  1. These are absolutely adorable. (I pinned these.. I hope that's ok)

  2. These are so amazing! I could see using them for a wedding, for a theme on the idea of the ring... I asked for a donut pan for Christmas, so hopefully I will be actually making your creations soon, rather than just enjoying reading about them!

    1. That is a great idea, Rhea! Thanks! I am probably hosting a giveaway next week, so you could maybe win TWO pans! xoxoxo

  3. These are so awesome! And great to give away as holiday gifts. (Hint, hint). ;)

    1. Ohmygerd, I hope I have enough left to bring you one Saturday, I would love to! Thanks, Alisyn!

  4. I feel like you are perfect. Just hanging out making crazy awesome shit.

    1. Oh, VS. I am NOT perfect! Parts of my life are perfect, like this stretch where I haven't had to work, just hanging out with my crazy awesome kids making crazy awesome shit, but not all parts are perfect, by far! xoxoxoxoxo

  5. so i just stumbled onto this and i must say i am in love!!! You are a genius! xE

    1. Thank you, Eloise! I just looked at your blog and I think it is wonderful and fresh. Great work! :)


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