My daughter Stella has entered the baking competition at the Spokane Co Fair for the last couple years and last summer she worked harder than ever to perfect her Congo Bar recipe. After several test batches trying out different fats, nuts, additions, etc and feedback from my very generous coworkers she landed on the recipe below.
What I really love about this recipe more than how yummy they are is the commitment my 10 year old had to creating an extraordinary treat. Being in the kitchen with kids is really something special. Consider the math lessons, the science lessons, the attention to following directions and the critical thinking involved in baking in order for the recipe to turn out. There is also the bonus reward at the end for all their labor and it’s usually pretty darn tasty. This is a great recipe that kids can do with minimal parental assistance. You can make the determination what level of support your kiddo will need. After all, there’s an oven and knife involved.
2 ¾ Cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
⅔ Cup butter softened (room temp)
1 Cup packed dark brown sugar (light brown sugar works fine too)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon instant Colombian coffee powder or espresso powder (this is Stella’s secret ingredient, if you don’t have it you can omit)
1 package (11.5 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chunks, any chocolate chip or combination of chips will work in this recipe
1 Cup chopped pecans (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly butter a 9×13 pan. Because these are a bar cookie we recommend using parchment paper or greased foil larger than the pan to help with lifting the bars out. If you plan on leaving them in the baking dish and serving from there don’t worry about this step.
In a medium bowl which together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In your mixer with paddle attachment (or in a large bowl you can stir by hand) combine butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed between each addition. Add vanilla and coffee powder. Once all the ingredients are well combined, add in the flour mixture and mix until well combined. Stir in your chocolate chunks and pecans.
Using a large spatula, scrape the cookie dough into your greased pan. Spread the dough evenly into the prepared baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until top is golden. Do not over bake. Remove from oven and cool in the pan. Bar cookies must cool completely before you slice them or remove them from the pan, this is important or you’ll ruin your batch. They set while cooling. It’s worth the wait.