I barely remember my mom making these for our tree when I was little; I do recall that I loved pulling these adorable, great-smelling gingerbread men out of the box and hanging them on the tree year after year. We must have had ours for a decade before they finally lost their smell. With such fond memories associated with something as simple as an ornament you can’t even imagine how excited I was to make some of my own! The recipe is simple: just applesauce and cinnamon. The project itself is a little time consuming but it’s well worth it. (Plus, it’s a guilt-free alternative to baking something you can actually eat . . . assuming you love baking for baking’s sake of course!)
Making your dough requires the most patience. You’ll need to spend several minutes (mine took about 20) kneading the dough until it comes together completely. Your dough shouldn’t be sticky or crumbly. Add more cinnamon or applesauce until your dough forms a neat ball that’s about the consistency of clay. For recipes check out McCormick or the katy elliot blog.
Next “flour” your counter or board with cinnamon. The dough isn’t sticky but you don’t want to risk having to peel these little guys up. You’ll want the dough to be at least 1/4″ thick. Honestly the thicker the better, because once they’re dry they’ll be pretty fragile. Cut your ornaments into whatever shapes you desire. I like the gingerbread men since they look like cookies hanging on the tree but hearts and stars are cute too. Don’t forget the make holes to hang the ornaments; I recommend using a drinking straw.
Place your cut outs on baking sheets; it’s a good idea to use mats or parchment paper since these are basically clay they may leave crumbs permanently dried to your pans. Also don’t worry about putting them too close together; the dough won’t spread so as long as they’re not touching you’re fine. Dry the ornaments in a 200-degree oven for 1 to 2 hours. Remember drying time will depend on the thickness and size of your ornaments. Mine took just under two hours but they we’re a little on the thin side. If your unsure I recommend kick-starting the drying process with 45-minutes to an hour in the oven then allowing them to air dry for a day or two. (Letting them go too long in the oven might make them more fragile.) I’m telling you right now, the smell is downright heavenly! I hope you love cinnamon because the wonderful scent of baking spices will fill every room of your home for days.
Once your ornaments are completely dry run a pretty string or ribbon through the holes – i found this adorable red and green twine at Michael’s – and hang from your tree. These also make a special homemade gift for friends and family! Put half a dozen in a cute box as an unexpected surprise for a secret santa exchange, use them as decorations on packages, the possibilities are endless. No matter how you use them, these pretty little ornaments add a sweet, rustic touch to your holiday decor!