I’m wary of superlatives. Skeptical when it comes to suffixes of the -est variety. I’m bashful with “best,” moderate with “most.” Even in my high school yearbook, I felt uneasy seeing my face next to the phrase, “Most Likely To Brighten Your Day.” I walked the halls for the last weeks of senior year wondering if I could possibly have made one person’s day sunnier. Doubtful.
But sometimes, just sometimes, when the moment is right and the conditions are just so, I’ll utter a statement so bold that I’m willing to back it with my whole bankroll. That’s right, two looming stacks of nickels. The last $50 to my name.
Today, my friends, is one of those times. I hope you’re seated. I’m going to tell you something that I’ve come to believe in as fully as the divine right of peanut butter to marry fluff. A conviction of sorts.
These are the best cookies I’ve ever tasted. There. I know, that was quite frightening. I’m terrified of words like “never,” phrases ending in “ever,” and all things set in stone. But when it comes to these chewy squares, I’m brazen.
Congo bars. Thick, buttery squares of ultra-chewy brown sugar dough studded with rich white chocolate, threaded with flaked coconut, and smoky toasted pecans. One bite is a melting, gritty mouthful of luscious flavor and varied texture.
If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I’m a baker at heart. Don’t let the blogtitle fool you. I cook; I make dinner every night; but I’m nothing without my beloved butter, sugar, flour, and eggs. Lost without chocolate. This recipe is the one that I’m begged to bake over and over again. Family, friends, friends of friends, friends of my aunt’s neighbor’s dog’s breeder, you name it, come calling for a 13×9 of these rich treats. “You sure you don’t want me to bake a sour cream fudge cake filled with vanilla buttercream and glazed with chocolate ganache?”…”Yup. Just bring the bars.”
If you didn’t already believe in magic, these would convince you. It’s a wonder why Jehovah’s witnesses don’t tote these door to door. Everyone would convert.
Congo Bars, recipe from Cooks Illustrated– my favorite cooking and baking website
- 1 cup pecans (or walnuts), toasted and chopped
- 1.5 cups unsweetened shredded coconut ( I use sweetened)
- 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 12 TBSP unsalted butter (1.5 sticks), melted and cooled
- 1.5 cups packed light brown sugar
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 4 tsp vanilla extract ( I know, it’s a lot)
- 1 cup white chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°. Spread nuts on a larged rimmed baking sheet and bake until deep golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer nuts to cutting board to cool; chop coarsely and set aside. The recipe also directs you to toast the coconut on same rimmed baking sheet, stirring 2 to 3 times, until light golden, about 5 to 7 minutes, but note: I do not toast the coconut.
Fit two pieces of aluminum foil into a 13 by 9″ baking pan, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges.
Spritz evenly with nonstick cooking spray. NOTE: It’s important to line the pan with foil because you want to be able to remove the bars from the pan by simply lifting the foil overhang on both sides. Then, you can peel down the foil and slice them perfectly.
Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
Whisk melted butter and brown sugar together in medium bowl until combined.
Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.
Using rubber spatula, fold dry ingredients into egg mixture until just combined; do not overmix.
Fold in chocolate, coconut, and nuts. NOTE: I like to toss the three add-ins together in a bowl before adding them to the batter so that I can ensure an even dispersal.
Bake until top is shiny, cracked, and light golden brown, 22 to 25 minutes; do not overbake. Cool on wire rack to room temperature. Remove bars from pan by lifting foil overhang and transfer to cutting board. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.