One of the strongest senses evoking our emotional responses to holidays is smell. For this season in our house, pine and bay (evergreens) mix with spices like cinnamon and ginger. We have spiced pumpkin, spiced smoothies, spiced eggnog, spiced cookies, and spiced cider. There is a lot of cinnamon smell in our house.
Every year the smell of cinnamon reminds us to tell the story of my daughter’s first encounter with cinnamon decorations. When she was two and a half years old, I made special cinnamon ornaments. They look like cookies but they last for years giving off that nice, spicy smell.
The cinnamon is made into a thick paste with a small amount of applesauce, pressed into cookie cutters, and dried out. The next year, just sand the surface and the spicy smell is back.
I told my daughter these were decorations that we just smell.
But they look like cookies, so she took a bite.
Then she threw up all over our living room floor.
Even though her brother is nine years old now, she still tells him, “Don’t eat these. They aren’t cookies.” Despite that, all day today she has asked me, “Is it time to make the cinnamon cookies.”
This cautionary tale shouldn’t keep you from making cinnamon ornaments, but keep them away from small children. If you give these as gifts, label them very clearly.
- About 1 cup of powdered cinnamon
- About ½ cup of applesauce
- Cookie cutters
- Very low oven (~200 degrees)
Mix. Pour the cinnamon into a bowl. Add a small amount of applesauce and mix thoroughly. Keep adding more applesauce until you have a heavy cookie dough consistency. The mixture should not be crumbly (too dry) or sticky (too wet) but should stick together when pressed without making cracks on the surface.
Cookie Sheet. Set out molds on a cookie sheet. I like to put a layer of parchment paper underneath. I find that cookie cutters without handles or backs work best because they give space to press the shape out. We have a pancake mold that works well also. Smooth, round shapes are easier to start with so you can figure out the right techniques before you are dealing with tight corners.
Mold. Press the mixture into a cookie cutter or mold. Press firmly with fingers to be sure that there are no empty spaces, cracks, or bubbles. It might help to use a small spatula or knife to press into tighter corners. Smooth the top of the shape.
Release. Press out of the mold, releasing the shape by pressing gently at the edges with a knife.
Hole. Make a 1/8″ hole about ½” from the top or from any edges of the shape.
Dry. Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Turn off, then leave the cookie sheet in the oven. Or just set the cookie sheet in the oven when you finish cooking dinner. Or, set it on or near a radiator or heating vent. If you leave to air dry, the process can take a couple of days. If your climate is humid, help the process along with a small amount of heat. When the shapes are firm but not yet dry, move them around on the cookie sheet to let them dry on the bottom.
Decorate. Once dry, tie a ribbon or string through the hole.
We hang our ornaments on hooks along our mantle. Bigger ornaments may be too heavy for a tree, but smaller ornaments like the leaves we made this year should be fine on tree branches.
When you pack the cinnamon ornaments away for the first year, be sure to include towels or paper that can absorb any excess moisture.
The smell of cinnamon fills our house long after the ornaments have been put away.
Next year, sand the back to evoke your own holiday memories.