On Friday we’re having a few people over for dinner. It’s not that we really celebrate Valentine’s Day, but it’s a good excuse to have a super fancy dinner party — where all the attendees are wearing sweat pants. And really I think that Valentine’s Day is overhyped as a generically heterosexual romantic thing when really, why can’t we use it as a time to celebrate our love for friends and family?
Anyway, this is the idea I came up with for place markers for each diner’s plate: SALT DOUGH! You remember salt dough, right? I guarantee you made it at least once as a child, or made it for a child as an adult. If not, then NOW IS YOUR CHANCE!
It’s easy peasy. Preheat your oven to 250°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or not, your choice). Start with a bowl, 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup fine salt, and 1/2 cup water. I like to add in a pair of gloves because this stuff is majorly drying to the skin, and you’re gonna have to knead it. Plus I intend to colour it with gel paste colouring, which has a tendency to stain.
Mix the flour and salt together, then add the water in bit by bit. Sometimes you won’t need it all. Today, given that Ottawa is SO FREAKING dry right now (neither Gren nor the Pie will come near me because I’m a walking static shock machine), I used it all.
Use your hands to get everything properly mixed together.
The dough will be very dry. If it sticks to your hands then you need more flour.
Here’s where I added the gel paste. You can leave that out and paint the ornaments later, or leave them as is for a nice soft white finish.
I got bored kneading in the gel paste and ended up liking this marbled texture so I rolled with it.
And rolled it out with a rolling pin. Not too thick, or the dough will puff up in the oven and take too long to dry, and not too thin, or it will just break. But it’s not rocket science, so don’t worry too much about it. You can always re-roll scraps, too. It’s not like you’re worried about it being tough — you don’t eat this stuff.
Then I used a cookie cutter to slice out the shapes I wanted. Decorate them however you want with other dough or whatever. I was originally going to imprint my guests names into the soft dough, but I forgot about the whole gluten-equals-springy-dough thing and it didn’t work out. Oh well.
I used a skewer to poke a hole so they could be hung them up if the guests wanted to.
In the end I had fifteen 3″ hearts, with only a little scrap of dough left.
Lay the ornaments flat on the parchment and bake for an hour, flipping them halfway through. If your oven burns hot, put the rack on the upper portion of the oven and/or turn down the heat if possible.
Remove the “cooked” ornaments to a rack to cool completely.
I used a silver Sharpie to write my guest names on each ornament and strung them with coloured thread.
The blank hearts I hung from the light fixture in the middle of the dining room, to give a bit of height to the table decoration.