My plan for this post was to show an old-fashioned traditional German Christmas tree and how to replicate some of the ornaments used in a more modern way.
In the good old days there were no plastics, garish tinsel or flashing lights. Instead a lot of special cookies were baked and decorated, especially Lebkuchen and Pfefferkuchen. Nuts were gilded and apples polished. All were suspended from pretty ribbons and hung from the tree. Candles were attached to the branches with their own candle-cup clips and to finish it off a little Engelshaar (angel hair) was spread sparsely over the tips of the branches to add some glitter. And the top of the tree was usually a golden star.
Because I live in the tropics I had to find a dough other than the traditional varieties for the simple reason that anything edible will attract the entire ant population from ten miles around plus other undesirables!
So, after a lot of research, I decided to use salt dough. Easy to make and easy to use, that is what I thought. Flour, salt and a bit of water in a bowl, then knead until smooth and lump free, then allow to rest for half an hour.
Half an hour later I was eager to start on the cookie shapes, but my beautiful dough had turned into a sticky wet mass. I added more flour to get the right consistency for using the cookie press. That did not work! More flour needed so I can roll out the dough and use cookie cutters. Finally I got somewhere! I cut out stars and hearts and formed some Brezeln by hand. Then I used a toothpick to poke holes in the top of the cookies to be able to attach ribbon for hanging when done.
The instructions for the use of the dough gave the option of baking, which would make the cookies puff up or to allow air to dry them. I opted for baking at a low temperature. Fifteen minutes should be enough, I thought, and I should have sparkling white cookies! No such luck! They had puffed unevenly and shrunk somewhat and had turned a brownish/greyish colour. To top it off, the cookies were still soft.
Plan B called for air drying. So I put the whole lot on a cooling rack and placed them outside in the sun with the breeze circulating around them. Come night time I brought the cookies inside. Still soft! This went on for the last ten days until I was tired and decided to put them back in the oven. By now they had shrunk even more and the holes I had made at the start had closed at the back where they initially touched the baking tray. The cookies were also a lot thinner now! After another twenty minutes on lowest heat with the oven door slightly open I now had some medium brown ones, some more grey than before and the rest almost roasted.
Never mind the colours, the cookies were now hard, just how I wanted, and I had decided to spray paint them in gold anyway. After they had cooled I gave them two coats of paint on each side allowing them to dry between applications. Then I allowed them to dry thoroughly overnight.
Today I wanted to attach the ribbon/string/thread so they could be hung up. To be able to do so I needed to work on the closed holes. So I used a fine needle to start with. then a slightly thicker one. But still the holes were not large enough. I used the next larger size and that was it! Most of the cookies just broke and for those that did not I just used fine fishing line instead of pretty ribbon!
I shall never do salt dough again! The high heat and humidity where I live will not allow this project to be successful.
But for the fun of it I will add a few pictures!
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