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Congo Bars: Popular Blonde Brownies Variation

Congo Bars, a popular variation of blonde brownies, are a simple bar cookie recipe to make from scratch.

They are a special favorite with those who like soft chocolate chip cookies - and have also been called "blondies on steroids" because they are packed with extra goodies.

These blondies allegedly gained popularity in American kitchens during the 1980s, at a time when the U. S. Army promoted a new high-temperature chocolate bar that could withstand excess temperatures (more than 140 °F). Aptly dubbed The Congo Bar, the military’s high-energy ration was shipped to troops during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. It received a warmer welcome than the Tropical Bar, produced by Hershey after World War II. The homemade version boasts a rich, butterscotch flavor, rather than chocolate.

Like other blonde brownies, the recipe substitutes brown sugar for cocoa or melted chocolate, but Congos include added chocolate chips, white chocolate (vanilla) chips, nuts, and coconut.

Congo Bars: a popular blonde brownies variation from The Cookie Elf

Prep time: 10 minutes

Bake time: 22-26 minutes

Makes 25-35 bars, depending on how you cut them

Ingredients

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter or margarine, melted

1 ½ cups packed brown sugar

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup white chocolate (or vanilla) chips

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1 ½ cups shredded coconut

Directions for Congo Bars

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, allowing ends to extend over two sides of the pan. If you use foil, coat it lightly with vegetable spray.
  2. In a small, microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter. Allow it to cool to room temperature.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Set aside.
  4. Pour the melted butter into a separate mixing bowl. Add brown sugar. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, combine the melted butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla extract, beating until the mixture is well blended.
  5. Beat in dry ingredients gradually until dough is well blended.
  6. Use a large spoon to stir in both kinds of chips, nuts, and coconut. The dough will be thick.
  7. Spread mixture evenly onto bottom of the prepared baking pan.
  8. Bake for 22-26 minutes or until golden brown. Do not over bake. Remove the pan from the oven and allow cookies to cool completely on a wire rack.
  9. Grasp ends of aluminum foil or parchment paper and lift the bars from the pan. Peel away foil or paper from the edges of the bars. Cut bars in five rows of five, five rows of seven, or in any other size you wish.
  10. Store bars loosely covered at room temperature.

Special Baking Tips for Congo Bars

  • You can omit or replace any of the added ingredients in this recipe (chocolate chips, vanilla chips, nuts, or coconut) according to your taste.

  • To toast the chopped pecans or walnuts prior to adding them to the cookie dough, spread the nuts on a rimmed baking pan. Set the pan in the oven, preheated to 350º F, and bake for 10 minutes. (You can use the same pan to bake the bars, too.)

  • You may choose to mix ingredients with a large, sturdy spoon rather than an electric mixer. The batter will come together easily by hand because the butter is melted prior to mixing.

  • Like other brownies and blondies, Congo Bars are almost like a cake, yet have a dense texture that allows the individually-cut bars to be eaten as finger food. The dough is thick and rich. Be sure to press the cookie dough evenly into the pan to ensure uniform baking. The bars hold up well when wrapped individually in plastic wrap and packed into lunch boxes.

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