Who can resist the charm of gingerbread houses for the holiday? The problem is, sometimes I can't resist the candy decorations either. I thought I'd skip the temptation all together by making a village of salty houses—no temptation there! These buildings pack the charm of vintage putz villages with the oven-baked look of gingerbread. And you can use them year after year! (I'm always so devastated at the thought of throwing away a beautiful gingerbread house.)
These salt dough homes can be dyed any color you choose, or left a natural flour color. Of course, I chose pink, but wouldn't an aqua blue village be beautiful, too?
Step One: Make your salt dough. Mix 2 cups of flour with 1/2 cup of salt. Then stir in 3/4 cup of warm water. The dough will require kneading to come together like a dense cookie dough. If you'd like to color your houses, then mix in acrylic paint as you make your dough. You can knead in extra paint later to make portions of your dough more brightly colored than the rest.
Step Two: Roll out the dough into 1/8 inch thickness and place on parchment paper. Then use the templates as guides to cut out each piece needed to make the buildings. I used an X-Acto blade with a cutting mat under the parchment paper, but you can use whatever kind of knife or metal scraper you have to cut out the shapes.
Step Three: Bake the cookies at 200ºF for 2-3 hours until hardened. I made the mistake of baking my cookies at 300º to begin with, and they puffed up like crackers. Don't do that! Keep the heat low to avoid any puffing. Be sure to keep parchment paper under the cookies while baking, or they will stick to your cookie sheets. (Another lesson learned! This was my first time using salt dough. So many lessons learned!)
Step Five: Fill any gaps and decorate the roofs of the buildings with caulk. That's right—caulk! It acts like icing without any of the edibility. You need to work quickly when using caulk, though, because it gets goopy quickly. I sprinkled mine with glitter just after applying the caulk.
I placed battery-powered tea lights inside of my little homes to create an enchanting glow on my dining room cabinet. I'll have to carefully pack them away after Christmas, and then make a couple of new ones to add to the village next year! –Mandi
Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.