By Cathy Barrow

Special To The Washington Post

I love a good cookie swap. There is no better holiday tradition for the cookie fanatic. But I have come to understand, just as with contributors to a potluck, everyone responds differently to the call of the swap.

Some who answer the call are cookie bakers with serious skills. They bring platters of carefully wrought reindeer, glistening stars and bedazzled snowflakes. There are bakers who rely on family recipes for snickerdoodles and candy-cane-topped chocolate chunkies. And then there are the non-bakers who fret at the very invitation, wondering what to make. They seek out recipes that seem easy enough, and, invariably unwrap their contributions, muttering “I’m not a baker.”

Never apologize for making cookies, people.

Here is the cookie swap creation for non-bakers — including you, without a mixer. A large bowl and a sturdy wooden spoon will do. You use store-bought granola, a jar of good jam, and make a shortbread dough that is pressed in rather than rolled out.

The shortbread is sandy, sweet and firm enough to form a suitable base for the jam and streusel-like topping. I have used all flavors of jam for these bar cookies, including raspberry, spiced plum, lemon curd and even orange marmalade. Pick your very favorite. Mix the topping with whatever granola is in the house, but the simpler the better. (Read: With nuts maybe, but no dried fruit.) No granola on hand? Add a handful of rolled oats and toasted nuts to the topping’s flour and butter instead.

Fit parchment paper into the pan carefully; neat and squared corners make pressing the shortbread into the pan easier. Use your knuckles, not fingertips, to press in the base (or use the flat bottom of a glass). With plenty of parchment overlap, the entire cooled slab can be lifted from the pan onto a cutting board for easy dissection. I have sliced them into sizable squares, but they also make tidy, slim bars. Measure carefully so that each one is the same size, just because they will look prettier on the platter.

With this crowd-pleaser, you can don that ugly Christmas sweater and stride into the cookie swap. No apology necessary.

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