Slice-and-bake cookie technique saves the day

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Food & Dining

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You knew there'd be days like this. The kids are bored. There's nothing to do. Mini-spats are simmering.

Slice-and-bake cookies — rolls of dough tucked in the refrigerator or freezer waiting to be sliced, baked and decorated -- were created for just such emergencies

"It's a great activity to do with children," writes Elinor Klivans, a grandma, former pastry chef and cookbook author, in "Slice & Bake Cookies: Fast Recipes From Your Refrigerator or Freezer" (Chronicle Books, $18.95).

"I spread newspaper on my kitchen floor to catch any spills, put out bowls of glazes and edible decorations," she says. (Much of the latter is usually eaten before being applied to cookies). "Creativity reigns, and when we're finished, I just roll up the newspaper, wipe the counter and cleaning is done."

Many recipes have built-in kid appeal and are easy enough for any child adept at Play-Doh to help with measuring, mixing or shaping the rolls. Little ones may just like to help with decorating. The butter cookies are a good one to start with — and have in the freezer, so double the recipe if you like.

Klivans offers variations: Mix 1 teaspoon grated orange or lemon zest into the dough. Or sprinkle cookies with colored sugars before baking. Or decorate baked cookies with confectioners' sugar icing.

Grandmother Sophie’s Butter Cookies

Prep: 10 minutes; Chill: 3 hours; Bake: 15 to 20 minutes per batch;

Makes: 42 cookies

Adapted from “Slice & Bake Cookies” by Elinor Klivans.

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

¼ teaspoon salt

⅔ cup sugar

2 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon almond extract

2 cups flour

Chocolate chips or pecan halves, optional

With an electric mixer on medium, beat butter and salt in a bowl just until blended. Beat in sugar until blended smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl. Mix in yolks and extracts until blended. Reduce speed to low. Add flour, mixing just until incorporated.

Divide dough in half. Put each on a large piece of plastic wrap. Form into logs 7 inches long and 1½ inches in diameter. Roll back and forth to smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 3 hours, or overnight, until firm. Or add a layer of aluminum foil and freeze up to two months. Frozen dough needs defrosting in the refrigerator 3 hours before baking.

To bake, set rack in middle of oven. Heat to 350 F. Cut cold logs into slices, about 1/3-inch thick. Place cookies 1½ inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Press a chocolate chip (flat side up) or pecan half into each slice. Bake one sheet at a time until cookies are lightly browned, 15-20 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheet 10 minutes; transfer to wire rack. Cool completely.