12 Days of Christmas Day 5: Gingerbread Playdough
Today’s post is going to be a bit of a departure from my usual food recipes, but this is still a from-scratch recipe of sorts.
I used to have a huge aversion to playdough because the first time I brought some home from the store, my 2 little toddlers immediately put handfuls in their mouths, ground it into the carpet, and then mixed all of the colors so we were left with a giant, ugly, gray-ish ball of really unpleasant-smelling dough. I mean, who knows what’s in that stuff, right?So I vowed to never buy playdough again. Then one day we had some friends over for dinner and they kindly brought a giant colorful pack of playdough for my kids to play with, and I smiled and graciously thanked them while I cringed inside. So after dinner, I reluctantly pulled out the gift they brought and we all played with it. But then something magical happened. I watched my kids faces and hands and listened to their excited voices explaining what they were making instead of worrying about the carpet or color mixing or the gross smell.
And the magic wasn’t with just the kids, we adults were really enthusiastically creating too. I still had to clean up little pieces in the carpet, I still had to breathe out of my mouth, and I still ended up throwing away a big ball of gray dough, but that evening changed my perspective.
Then one day I discovered homemade playdough, and my mind was blown. Not only do I know exactly what went into it, I can color it how I want (magenta playdough made with beet juice anyone?!?!) and, my house can smell amazing while they play. This gingerbread playdough is perfect. It’s soft and pliable and has the right amount of bounce to it, and it’s all one color so there’s no dreaded mixing. My kids will play for hours, telling each other stories, making action figures, and pretending they’re on “The Great British Baking Show” speaking in really hilarious accents and talking about how their gingerbread biscuits don’t have quite the right crisp snap to them. (that actually happened today) And the best part? My house smells like Christmas. I can not get enough of this smell!
It’s really quite simple to make. And it’s definitely edible, though I wouldn’t recommend eating it. But with a short ingredient list of flour, salt, cream of tartar, oil, and spices, you can feel good about what’s all over their hands and feel ok about what might make it into their mouths.
And I dare you to sit there and not take deep breaths through your nose and eventually get up from what you’re doing and join in on the magic. It’s really therapeutic squeezing this stuff through your fingers. Just try not to hoard the dough and snap at your kids to back off while you’re creating.
So have I convinced you? You probably already have all of these ingredients in your pantry anyway, so go grab all of the your cookie cutters and other fun tools, mix up a batch, and enjoy!
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup salt
- 4 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon grated orange zest, optional
- 1/4 cup neutral tasting/smelling oil (I just used non-GMO canola)
- 2 cups water
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add water, oil, orange zest, and stir until combined. Cook over low until the mixture begins to clump together and forms a large ball of dough. It will still feel a little wetter than what you'd expect for the finished product.
- Remove from pan and let cool slightly. Once cool enough to handle, knead the dough until smooth.
- Use immediately and store in an airtight container for a month or longer.
- You can use any or all of the spices, though I'd make sure to use at least cinnamon.