making christmas: cinnamon ornaments

When my sister and I were little girls, our family often had two Christmas trees. One classic Christmas miracle, and a second smaller tree covered in the weird stuff kids make in grade school. Lots of macaroni art and yarn, you know. A lot of those kid ornaments wouldn’t survive from year to year, due to a combo of not exactly being made to last and mouse attacks during the off season, and our supply dwindled. One year we moved all of the remaining favorite silliness to our main tree (we still hang them, and they really are some of the best…especially Joie’s macaroni art), but still wanted a second “kids” tree. Our genius mother helped us make a batch of cinnamon applesauce ornaments, and they plus a few strings of lights added up to a really gorgeous tree. I decided to make them again this season, to fill in some gaps in Hal and my little tree and to give to guests at our holiday party.* And I’m so glad I did! They’re a perfect simple Christmas craft, and make the house smell fantastic for days.

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*note to said guests: if you snuck away without one, I still have extras!

I feel a little silly writing about a non food item on our lovely food blog, but these are so dang cute I couldn’t help myself. And really, the process of making them is just like making cookies, with fewer ingredients. You mix together a dough of cinnamon and applesauce (a lot of recipes online suggest glue, and I was happy to find one that skipped that step), with a little clove added for extra holiday-ness. The dough is rolled out and cut into shapes like you would with any other cookie, little holes are poked in the tops to facilitate hanging, and the ornaments get baked at a low temp for two hours, then left overnight in your turned off oven to fully dry out. Tie on the festive string of your choice, and you have a whole passel of deliciously scented ornaments ready to decorate with or to give to your lucky loved ones.

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A few notes on the amount of cinnamon you’ll need for these pretties. The recipe I found calls for a total of one and a half cups, and suggests buying big containers at bulk stores. Bulk stores are one of the few things New York is missing (or, at least, the parts of New York I was zooming around in the week when I made these), and I spent a lot of time wondering exactly how much cinnamon I was going to have to buy. I found four ounce containers at a local grocery store, and was both pleased and surprised to discover that four ounces of cinnamon added up to just a cup–who knew? Makes no sense to me, but there you go. I was both less surprised and less pleased to realize after baking these that not only did my house smell like cinnamon, so did my cookie sheets. Even after a run through the dishwasher. You’ll really need to get in there and thoroughly wash your cookie sheets to de-cinnamon them, something helpful to know if you’re planning on using them for a large quantity of pigs in a blanket the next day. Just as an example.

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These ornaments would be a great project to make with kids, though you’d have to really emphasize that this dough, as much as it looks like regular cookie dough, is not for eating (I had enough trouble convincing Hal that they weren’t edible…so much so that he actually took a bite of both the raw dough and a baked ornament, after which he definitely believed me. And wasn’t poisoned, happily, so while the experience would certainly be gross, I don’t think it would actually hurt anyone who sneaks a bite). I left mine plain, but they would be awesome decorated with a little paint or glitter glue.

If you’re looking for a last minute holiday craft (because you don’t have enough to do, I’m sure) these are a perfect way to tie a little extra cheer onto all of your presents, but they’d also be great any other time this winter when you want your house to smell like a festivity factory. I’m thinking a batch of all heart shaped ornaments would be perfect tucked into valentines…cheers!

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cinnamon applesauce ornaments
(from katy elliot: home + art + food)

ingredients
one cup applesauce
one cup ground cinnamon, plus as much extra as needed to make the dough in sticky: probably around half a cup)
2 tbs ground cloves

non ingredient extras
a toothpick
festive string

instructions
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Mix one cup of applesauce with one cup of cinnamon, using your hands to really get everything combined. The dough will still be very sticky: keep adding cinnamon (and throw in your nutmeg!) a bit at a time until you can easily manipulate the dough without it sticking.

Sprinkle some cinnamon on your work surface, just as you would with flour, and roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out dough into whatever shapes strike your fancy (I went with hearts, stars, and acorns), and place on  a cookie sheet with a silpat or parchment paper. They can be very close together, as they won’t expand during baking.

Using a toothpick, make holes in the tops of the ornaments for hanging.

Bake at 200 for two hours, and if possible let them sit overnight in the (turned off!) oven. The ornaments are done when they are hard as little festive rocks.

Tie on loops of string, and you’re done!

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