Microwave vs No-Cook vs Stovetop Play Dough

I'm sure you've seen how many different ways there are to make play dough. To skip straight to my recipe, click here! I always whip up a batch for the new school year to use for centers, and this year I ran into a problem: I didn't save the recipe I used the year before. Due to this unfortunate circumstance, I ventured onto Pinterest to try and find a suitable recipe. I was immediately spoiled for choice, which was a bit overwhelming. What used to be a one choice project (what color should I make), quickly became a questionnaire.

Do you want to cook it? Do you want it to smell like pumpkin or gingerbread? Which recipe that claims to be the best is really the best? Do you want edible play dough? Will this attract ants? Do you want to store it at room temperature or not? Oh yeah, and what color do you want?

Not really knowing where to start led me to decide no-cook would be easiest and normal smelling dough would be best so nobody tried to eat it. I picked the first no-cook recipe that I found claiming to be the best where people had commented about making it successfully.

No-Cook Playdough

It was an epic fail. I think the main problem was that it didn't call for hot water. The play dough turned out okay at first though I had to use double the amount of flour it called for because I couldn't get it to be not sticky. It firmed up in the fridge but when I brought it out to let my students play with it, it was a disaster. Think cookie dough consistency and the smell of uncooked pizza dough. The kids were squealing about how slimy it was and it kept dripping, yes dripping, off their fingers onto the table, floor, chairs, you name it. It took me 20 minutes to clean it up after the class had left for the day.

This weekend led me to attempt number two. I vowed that I would only use a stovetop version, which I know works. But once again Pinterest bombarded me with so many choices that I got distracted from my goal. I discovered you can cook the play dough in the microwave instead of the stove. I told myself that would work just as well. I was still cooking it, and I could just zap it in the microwave instead of standing over a pot and stirring nonstop.

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This one worked better than the cold water no-cook nonsense I tried last time. However, it cooked too much on the outside and not enough on the inside. I ended up scooping the inside part into a pot and finishing it on the stove. Then I had to knead it with a lot of flour because it was too sticky. The end result was less play dough with a dried out look, not to mention a very dirty bowl with hard play dough stuck to the edges. The recipe didn't say how you can tell when it's done either, which I think was part of the problem.

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Finally, I tried it the good old fashion way which I should have done from the get go. Guess what? It worked. It was beautiful, not sticky, smooth, and easy. I'm kicking myself for not doing it this way from the start.

So, to sum it up: which kind of play dough is the best kind to make? The original kind. Don't fix what ain't broke.

20130921-234653.jpgStovetop versus microwave

Here's my recipe, adapted from Blossoms and Posies:

Ingredients 1 cup flour 1/2 cup salt 1 teaspoon cream of tartar 1 tablespoon oil 1 cup water 4 drops food coloring

Directions Mix together dry ingredients. Add food coloring to water and stir to combine. Add to dry ingredients with oil and whisk to combine. Dump in pot and stir constantly with wooden spoon over medium heat until one solid lump of dough is formed. Knead it a couple times as needed when cool enough to handle. Store in air tight container at room temperature.

20130921-234808.jpgStovetop with a wooden spoon keeps itself from sticking to the pan.

20130921-234853.jpgFinally finished!