A couple weeks ago, I mentioned my "Great Homemade Play-dough Experiment" and that I would be testing out a variety of recipes to see which one was the best. I judged this on few different criteria: 1) cost to make the dough; 2) texture; and 3) how long it lasts. I used a few different test subjects, but my main tester was my 3 1/2-year-old son, our in-house play-dough expert and connoisseur.
So with my assistant at my side, we researched and found some recipes, tried a few of them, and then narrowed the recipes down to two.
The first one we liked was my mom's (and probably your mom's, if she made homemade playdough) recipe, containing salt, flour, oil, cream of tartar, and food coloring. It's kind of the old stand-by recipe. Mixing this all up brought back memories - just the smell of the finished dough reminded me of all the batches of it my mom made when I was a kid.
Homemade Play-dough #1
In a saucepan combine:
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup salt
- 2 tsp. cream of tartar
- 1 cup water
- food coloring
- 5-6 tsp. vegetable oil
Cook over medium heat and stir constantly until mixture forms into a ball. It will appear lumpy but keep stirring. After it forms a ball, turn out on counter and knead until cool. Store at room temperature in airtight container or bag.
The second recipe is one that I got from someone at church. She said it's the best play-dough -- which got me started on this whole experiment in the first place. When I was buying the Kool-Aid for it, my husband was totally shocked -- "You're actually making Kool-Aid?!" (he sometimes grumbles about my natural food mantra). He wasn't so excited when I told him it was just for play-dough.
Homemade Play-dough #2The Testing
1 cup water
1 pkg. Kool-Aid
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1/4 cup of salt
1 cup of flour
-Boil water, oil, and Kool-Aid, then add your dry ingredients. Knead until cool.
Once the two samples were made and kneaded, I handed them off to the boy.
In addition to my son's rigorous testing, I also asked a few adults what they liked better. This wasn't so helpful. I just got a few non-committal, "I don't know...the orange one?" They just didn't grasp the importance and vision of this experiment as I'd hoped. Their loss, right?
I was feeling pretty torn between the two. At first, I thought the green dough would win because Max was playing with it the most. That soon changed and he played with the orange dough exclusively. So really, the whole testing step was kind of pointless. He liked both. Basically, it all comes down to my opinion.
I like homemade dough #1 (the green one) a lot because it has a good texture and consistency; it's sort of dry to the touch, similar to Play-Doh. And being the mushy sentimental person I am, I can't help but prefer my mom's recipe. The downside of the green dough is the cream of tartar. I had it on hand, but not everyone does. It's not quite the kitchen staple. Plus, it does put the cost of making this recipe up a little bit.
I like homemade dough #2 because it's really easy to make and it smells better. Granted, I mentioned the smell of the first one being sentimental, but that doesn't mean it smells good. The orange ball of dough smelled like oranges. This may make it more tempting for little kids to take a bite (but, chances are, they won't take another. Yuck!). This recipe is a little bit cheaper to make, especially since the one, special ingredient (as opposed to the cream of tartar in #1) packets of Kool-Aid only cost around five cents. My only complaint: the Kool-Aid dough did feel a little stickier, whereas dough #1 felt more like the store-bought kind.
But here's the biggest litmus test: which one lasts the longest? The dough #1 can about three months, six months if you are vigilant about keeping it in air-tight storage. The Kool-Aid dough's shelf-life is about the same. However, the reason why I decided to try homemade dough was because we were going through way too much of the store-bought kind. My son forgot to put it away or he didn't put the lids on tight enough. After about a week of play, it was either a big, hard lump or a bunch of dry, crumbly pieces. Homemade dough has a definite advantage in this respect.
Both doughs were kept out of their air-tight zipper bags for a good period of time. The green dough held out for a little while, but the Kool-Aid dough was the champ. For me, that was the deciding factor. The winner: homemade dough #2. It's so easy to make - you can whip up a rainbow of colors in no time. And, the best part, it only costs pennies to make. So, really, in the end, you're the true winner.