Congo Bars. Really just a fancy name for a chocolate chop cookie bar. I tried to find out why they are called Congo Bars instead of blondies, or cookie bars, but alas, I found no definitive answer. I did find this over on congocookbook.com though:
Congo Bars or Congo Squares are a popular dessert in the southeastern United States. They are also known as Blond Brownies, or Blondies (as they are made without any cocoa powder). They don’t have anything to do with Africa — the Congo region has no tradition of baked desserts such as brownies and cakes, and wheat (for flour) cannot be grown in Central Africa. In fact, most of Africa has little tradition of sweet desserts.
The name Congo Bars is a fanciful allusion to a mythical Congo, which also inspired the famous Congo Room of Las Vegas, and even the Congo Room of Canton, Ohio. Perhaps someone thought that all of the exotic ingredients (the chocolate, the coconut) might come from Africa. In New Orleans, there is a plaza called “Congo Square” (also known as Beauregard Square and now part of Louis Armstrong Park) which, in the early 19th century, was a gathering place for both free and enslaved African-Americans who met for marketing, music-making, and dancing — and eating this variety of brownie? Who knows?
They are not cakey at all, instead they are dense and chewy and moist and practically perfect in every way. You also probably already have all the ingredients in your pantry. If you don’t have dark and light brown sugar, don’t worry. Just use what you have on hand.
The original recipe used chocolate baking melts, but I didn’t have any on hand, and in my mind, chocolate is chocolate, so I used a mix of semi-sweet and milk chocolate chips. Use baking melts, chocolate chips, chocolate chunks, chocolate bars- whatever you have on hand. It will all taste the same.
My Congo Bar name research also led me to discover that many Congo Bars have coconut in them. As a coconut lover, I think this would be a welcome addition. I’ll leave that up to you.
These bars are done when they are slightly golden brown around the edges. They will look underdone to you, but they aren’t. Trust me. If you cook them until they look done, they will be overdone. This is my baking philosophy with all bars, brownies, and cookies. Err on the side of underdone.
Pull them out and let them cool in the pan to room temperature (they will continue to bake) and then if you want them to look pretty, chill them before you slice them into bars.
You can, of course, eat them warm and gooey out of the oven, like Phoebe here did, but they won’t be nearly as pretty.
Hope you enjoy these bars as much as Phoebe did.
Recipe from Cookies and Cups.
1 cup room temperature butter
1 cup of dark brown sugar, packed
1 cup of light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate baking melts, chocolate chunks, or chocolate chips
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips (plus a few more for sprinkling on the top)
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9×13 inch baking pan with foil or parchment paper and spray liberally with non-stick cooking spray.
In a mixer, beat the butter and brown sugars for two minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla, salt and baking powder, and mix on medium speed for another full minute, scraping the sides of the bowl if needed.
Turn the mixer onto the lowest speed and add in the flour. Mix until just combined. With a wooden spoon, add in the baking melts, chocolate chunks, or chocolate chips.
Spread evenly into your prepared pan and top with a few additional chocolate chips. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the edges are set and lightly golden brown, and the center appears slightly underbaked.
Allow bars to cool completely before cutting. Chill before cutting if you want them to look really pretty.