Happy Easter everyone!
Every year, my friend Zuzana decorates store-bought chicken eggs into delicious masterpieces. This year she had ambitious plans to dye her eggs with beet juice, turmeric and onion peels. With all the talk about Easter eggs, my mind wandered to the numerous pastel coloured ceramic egg trays I saw displayed on a recent visit to Home Sense. That gave me the idea of making my own egg trays that could be both cute, functional, and most importantly, non-toxic. If I was going to use the tray to hold real eggs that would be eventually gobbled up then I had to ensure that any materials and finishings used on the tray be non-toxic, or in this case, edible too!
There are various versions of homemade clay that can be air dried or oven baked. They all involve the same 4 ingredients: flour, salt, warm water, and vegetable. The version that I chose to try out for my tray is courtesy of Pottery-on-the-Wheel.com:
Recipe for clay:
- 2 cups of flour
- 1 cup of salt
- 1 cup of warm water
- 1 tbsp of vegetable oil (optional; I used a total of 2 tbsp to create a smoother texture)
- food colouring (paste or liquid)
You will also need a number of tools and materials:
- 6 eggs
- extra large egg carton
- fabric measuring tape
- plastic cling wrap
- rolling pin
- parchment paper
Mix the flour and salt in a large heavy bowl.
Add warm water to the flour and salt mixture. For smoother consistency, add the 1 tbsp of vegetable oil. Mix together thoroughly until the mixture turns sticky, at which point, take it out of the bowl and start kneading it. Knead it until smooth and pliable.
If you wish to add colour to the dough, add it now. Add it slowly, bit by bit if you want to control the colour of the dough (for example, if you want the dough to be a lighter colour than the food colouring). If you are using food colour drops, make a well in the middle of the dough to hold the food colouring, and slowing fold the dough from the outside to the centre of the dough. If you are using food colouring paste as I did, you don’t need to make a well. Just spread the food colour throughout the dough.
Take your egg carton and cut it in half. You can make a tray with 10 holders, but I found that too big and clumsy. I opted to make a tray with 8 holders instead.
You will need to cut the two carton half so that they fit together like a puzzle.
One half carton should have a total of 4 holders, and the 2nd half carton should have a total of 6 holders. For one of the half-carton, with a pair of scissors cut the 2 holders at the open end so that half of them remain on the half-carton. For the other half-carton do the same i.e. cut them in half, keeping in mind that the bottom of the holders for both half-cartons will be overlapping. You may need to cut off additional parts of where the 2 half-cartons interlock so that the top edges of the half-cartons are as levelled as possible (note: because the holders at the end of each half-carton overlap/interlock, the top edges will never be totally levelled. You can cut the top overlapping top edge on a bias to create the illusion that the edges are leveled).
Use a fabric measuring tape to determine how large your piece of clay needs to be in order to cover the entire egg tray. The idea is to cover the egg carton with a layer of clay, using the egg carton as a mould. My tray required a piece of clay of at least 8 inches by 14 inches.
**At this point, you can put plastic cling wrap on the egg carton to create a barrier between the clay and the carton. You may want to use white glue or a glue stick to keep the plastic cling wrap attached to the carton.
Time to roll out your clay! You will only need 1/2 of the dough for this egg tray. I suggest you roll it out on top of a parchment paper. The clay can get sticky so flour the parchment paper and the rolling pin before rolling the clay out. Keep the thickness of the dough to no less than 1/4 of an inch. The clay is quite soft and if it is too thin, the carton will poke through the clay when you place the clay over it.
Roll out your clay, and using a knife or pizza cutter, cut the clay to the required size.
Then, similar to rolling out a pie crust over a pie plate, using the parchment paper, lift and wrap the clay around the rolling pin, discarding the paper as you wrap. You may want to flour the clay as you wrap to prevent one layer sticking to another. Carefully unroll over the egg carton making sure that there is sufficient clay over the holders.
With your fingers, carefully press the clay over each holder. Place an egg on each holder so that the clay contours the inside of each of the 8 holders. Do not leave the eggs on the clay for too long as the clay may stick to the egg when you try to remove the egg. You could flour the egg first before placing them in the holders to reduce the sticking.
You can now take the time to shape the clay egg tray. Using scissors, trim the sides of the egg tray until the edges are sharp and straight. You can easily smooth out any cracks or inconsistencies with a wet finger. I found that there were some spots where the egg carton poked through the soft clay, and I was able to easily patch those up by pressing small pieces of the discarded dough onto the spots.
If you did not use cling wrap as a barrier: Place your clay egg tray in an oven set to 250 F for about 1 hour. This is what I did. However, I found it difficult to remove the clay from the egg carton as the moisture from the clay had essentially gelled the clay to the paper. I had to use scissors to cut off the paper carton, and still, there were some pieces left over that I could not fully remove. I kind of liked the look as it gave the egg tray a rustic look.
If you used cling wrap as a barrier: As the cling wrap can melt under heat, you will have to air dry your clay egg tray. It will likely take a few days for it to fully dry.
Make use of your creation this weekend!