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All-American fun: Patriotic playdough is an easy DIY for summer

I am not a particularly crafty person, but I do enjoy a good DIY project every now and then, especially one that involves using food products. Homemade playdough is right up my alley, as every ingredient needed is an edible food product, and most...

Home-made clay for Independence Day. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Home-made clay for Independence Day. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

I am not a particularly crafty person, but I do enjoy a good DIY project every now and then, especially one that involves using food products. Homemade playdough is right up my alley, as every ingredient needed is an edible food product, and most are already pantry staples. 

Making playdough from scratch is easy, affordable and, most important, fun, especially when it's infused with festive holiday colors. With the Fourth of July just around the corner, this is a great project to share with the playful folks in your world, young or old. People of all ages tend to enjoy working with dough, and this recipe can easily be doubled so that there's enough playdough for even a large family gathering.

There are five basic ingredients to this playdough recipe, and just like most doughs, flour and water form the base. I use boiling water to help achieve the best texture, as the heat helps the flour's proteins to relax and ensures that the other ingredients are fully absorbed into the dough.

Salt is used to act as a preservative and also to strengthen the gluten in the flour to give the dough its signature elastic quality. Vegetable oil acts as a lubricant in the dough, moistening the dough and keeping it from becoming sticky.

And finally, this recipe calls for a tablespoon of alum, a preservative that is used in pickling and can be found in the spice section of your local grocery store. The alum helps preserve the dough over time, thus preventing it from becoming a moldy block of bacteria.

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To create the rich, saturated red and blue colors you see here today, I used generic liquid food coloring in fairly large amounts, at least a tablespoon or more per single batch. For the white batch, I simply omitted the food coloring.

Making homemade playdough gives you the freedom to experiment with a wide variety of colors and fragrances, and powdered products like Kool-Aid or dried spices and herbs are great for this purpose. For a fun party game, divide the dough into 10 or 12 small balls, work a different flavor into each one, and then have your guests try to identify each scent.

This recipe creates a wonderfully pliable dough that is easy to form into any shape or roll into large pieces for cutting. Homemade playdough will store well for several months in an airtight container, and plastic freezer bags or empty coffee containers work well.

For the upcoming holiday, I've made three double batches in patriotic red, white and blue colors, and I can hardly overstate how much I enjoyed making the Colonial-style flag for this week's photo shoot. Homemade playdough is fun, easy to make and a great way to engage guests of all ages to revisit their childhood with a simple invitation to just play. Have a happy, safe and fun Fourth of July!

NOTE: For more great Fourth of July recipes, please visit our blog at www.thelostitalian.areavoices.com .

Homemade Playdough

Yields: about 2 pounds

Ingredients:

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2 ½ cups flour, plus more as needed

½ cup salt (kosher or regular)

1 tablespoon alum

1 ¾ cups boiling water

2 ½ tablespoons vegetable or canola oil

Liquid food coloring as desired

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt; set aside.

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In a small pot, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Pour it into a medium bowl or large measuring cup and stir in the alum, oil and food coloring until well combined.

Add the liquid mixture to the flour and salt and use a wooden spoon or spatula to stir until slightly cool. Use your hands to form the dough into a ball, then transfer to a smooth work surface.

Knead dough well, adding flour often, until the dough no longer sticks to your hands and the flour is completely incorporated.

May last for several months when stored in an airtight container.

Sarah's Tips:

  • Empty coffee containers or plastic freezer bags work well to store the playdough.
  • To achieve a more saturated, richer tone in color, use at least 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons of liquid food coloring per batch.
  • For white playdough, omit the food coloring.
  • Use dried spices and herbs to add fragrance.
  • Recipe can be doubled for large batch.

"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 12-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello//thelostitalian.areavoices.com.

Home-made clay for Independence Day. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Home-made clay for Independence Day. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Related Topics: FOODRECIPES
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