Chewy Gooey Congo Bars (Blondies on Steroids)

I was flipping through my well-worn copy of The Great Book of Chocolate by David Lebovitz, flagging the pages of interest, when I saw a recipe for something called a Congo Bar and realized that I didn’t know what a Congo Bar was.

Then, as I read through the recipe, it started to coalesce in my head as a Blondie loaded with chocolate chips and chopped nuts. And as good as I’m sure David’s recipe is (which came to him courtesy of the Goddess of Baked Goodness, Flo Braker), I couldn’t help remembering that I created the Best Blondie in the Universe last year around this time and even suggested loading it with chocolate chips, chopped nuts, coconut, chopped peanut butter cups and anything else you can think of. For the post, I made a Peanut Butter Caramel Sauce and dolloped that throughout the batter. So was that creation actually a Congo Bar?

And you know what happened next: an inevitable flurry of cookbook and web research to try to pin down this intriguing bar cookie. Some of the examples I found on the web looked like chocolate chip cookie dough pressed into a baking pan and baked en masse. The interior of the cookie was not as chewy as I love a Blondie to be. But other examples featured a cookie crumb crust with a top layer of chocolate chips, coconut, chopped nuts, and condensed milk. Quite a different cookie altogether.

Nevertheless, most sources seem to agree than a Congo Bar is essentially a Blondie (no cocoa in the dough) with added coconut. It’s the coconut that makes it a Congo Bar. Other additions, such as chocolate chips and chopped nuts are optional. And BTW, the name has nothing to do with the Congo in Africa. It was just some long forgotten cook’s idea of an exotic sounding name to lend allure to the cookie. As if this deeply satisfying and delicious  cookie needs any help in the allure department!

Chewy Gooey Congo Bars

Congo Bars take Blondies to the Wild Side. There is nothing demur or sophisticated about either of these ultra-chewy, lip smacking bar cookies. They are unabashedly hedonistic, indulgent, and sensuous. Which of course strikes just the right note for summertime fun.

Most Congo Bar recipes I have seen specify a 9- by 13-inch baking pan for this amount of batter. That will make a very thin Congo Bar, which is not my preference. This Congo Bar is big, bold, and extra chewy.

Note I prefer an 8- by 8-inch baking pan, but if you want a somewhat thinner Congo Bar, use a 9- by 9-inch baking pan.

vegetable oil spray or unsalted butter, to coat the pan
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, to coat the pan

1 cup unsalted butter or unsalted browned butter (2 sticks)
2 cups packed dark brown sugar

2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla

2 cups King Arthur unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

1 cup lightly toasted, unsweetened, shredded coconut
1 cup chopped white chocolate (or white chocolate chips) (or half white chocolate and half bittersweet chocolate)
1 cup lightly toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

  1. Line an 8- by 8-inch (8-cup capacity) or 9- by 9-inch (10-cup capacity) metal baking pan with two crisscrossing strips of foil, shiny side down. Coat the foil lightly with vegetable spray or softened butter and sprinkle on the flour. Tap the pan from side to side to evenly coat with flour and then tap out any excess. Reserve.
  2. In a 2-cup glass measuring cup, melt the butter in the microwave. Pour into a large mixing bowl and add the brown sugar.
  3. Cool the mixture until just warm but not hot. Stir in the beaten eggs and vanilla.
  4. Over the top of the batter, sift the flour, baking powder and salt. Combine well.
  5. Spread batter evenly into the prepared baking pan.
  6. Bake at 350? for about 35 minutes, until the top of the cookies is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist, but not gooey crumbs. With these cookies, it is better to err on the side of under done than overdone.
  7. Cool on a wire rack, and then lift the Blondies out of the pan using the edges of the foil.
  8. Cut with a serrated knife into 2- by 2-inch squares.
  9. Store airtight at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Makes sixteen 2-inch square bar cookies.

More blondie and brownie recipes from LunaCafe

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Copyright 2011 Susan S. Bradley. All rights reserved.

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About Susan S. Bradley

Intrepid cook, food writer, culinary instructor, author of Pacific Northwest Palate: Four Seasons of Great Cooking, and founder of the Northwest Culinary Academy.

Comments

  1. Best congo bars I have ever made.

  2. Made these! FANTASTIC…Mine almost look as good as the picture,(I used toasted walnuts) but the taste OMG the best.

  3. The addition of coconut has my attention! Yum!

  4. Wow, these are gorgeous! I remember making these when I was growing up but I don’t remember them looking this incredible! I will have to revisit Congo Bars!

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