Chocolate Chip Blondies or Congo Bars
Happy Friday, my friends!
Today, I thought it would be fun to share a football dessert recipe…an “almost paleo” football dessert recipe, Chocolate Chip Blondies, also known as Congo Bars. Congo Bars are a type of Blondies. Generally, chocolate chips, shredded coconut and/or nuts are stirred into the buttery brown sugar dough. However, I’ve even stirred in dried fruits from time to time. For instance, chopped dates are a favorite of mine. Congo Bars were all the rage when I was growing up in the ‘70s and ’80s. And, Mom made them often. Who doesn’t love these bars? I don’t know anyone who doesn’t! You can even make them the traditional way with regular all-purpose wheat flour. Simply read the Tips section below the recipe and you are golden!
I’m telling you…I’m just ecstatic to share this recipe with y’all! I worked hard on it over the past two weeks and tested several batches. A very loyal Twitter follower had asked me to “paleo-ize” Chocolate Chip Blondies. (Yes, I put my other apple and pumpkin recipes aside just to share this recipe developed especially for her!) Specifically, she had asked if I would convert Ina Garten’s Chocolate Chip Blondies. As you would guess, she desired all the hallmark characteristics of an exceptional Blondie…chewy, ooey-gooey goodness with a crispy-crunchy exterior and a buttery, caramel-like brown sugary flavor chock full of plenty of “safe” (read: dairy, soy and gluten free) semisweet chocolate chips. And, since she cannot have alcohol based pure vanilla extract, we’re talkin’ a whole fresh vanilla bean split! Check.
The flour blend is comprised of healthy flours offering plenty of protein in the almond flour and fiber in the coconut flour. The tapioca starch is a pure starch and is well within reason when on the paleo diet for treats. Since my Twitter pal can have almond flour, tapioca starch and coconut flour in her gluten free and low-histamine diet (as well as guar gum to help with the chewy texture of these bars), I decided to go with my Mom’s recipe for Congo Bars. By using my Mom’s recipe, I could use 3 eggs in the recipe. And, as anyone who has ever worked with coconut flour knows, coconut flour is a very thirsty flour and it loves eggs. Therefore, it was an easy decision to convert my Mom’s Congo Bars into an “almost paleo” recipe…a recipe my Twitter pal will immensely enjoy! Check.
Mom’s recipe for Congo Bars calls for melted butter. But, since we are going dairy free with this recipe, I call for part organic palm shortening with natural butter flavor (the brand I use, Spectrum, is Kosher Certified) and part organic virgin coconut oil in the ideal ratio to recreate the same flavor and texture sensation all butter would lend. The bonus is that while Ina Garten’s recipe for Chocolate Chip Blondies calls for two (2) sticks of butter at 16 tablespoons, our recipe for Congo Bars uses only 12 tablespoons of fat. That’s 25 percent less fat. And, they’re healthy fats at that! Check.
Now, let’s talk about sugar. Although our recipe for Congo Bars is not paleo, because it includes part organic granulated cane sugar (or natural brown sugar such as demerera or turbinado), along with lower glycemic coconut palm sugar, it is well within reason to include it in the paleo diet for an occasional treat or for a special occasion without totally going off the rails on a crazy train. The reason why I use part sugar is because I was going for the characteristic glossy and crackly-crunchy top surface that makes Chocolate Chip Blondies and Congo Bars so appealing to the eye and so satisfying in texture sensations. When you crave that classic ooey-gooey and crunchy-chewy goodness in these bars, this is exactly what you want! And, nothing else will suffice. Am I right? I think so! Check.
It is no surprise to many of my readers that the paleo lifestyle is near and dear to my heart. This has become even more so as I have just recently learned that I am severely allergic to dairy in addition to being sensitive to wheat and other grains. Although dairy is not a part of the paleo diet, I used to occasionally enjoy dairy (read: cheese!) as part of my 20 percent reserved for treats within the 80/20 philosophy of the primal/paleo lifestyle. In the future, I will be posting more gluten and grain free recipes that also happen to be dairy free. And, whenever possible, I will be including options for my vegan friends with well-tested eggless recipes.
Seriously. Just look at that crunchy-crackly and flaky top! And, look at that moist interior. YUM!
What makes our gluten, grain and dairy free Chocolate Chip Blondies or Congo Bars wicked good? The perfect blend of gluten and grain free flours combined with sugars not overly refined and the ideal ratio of tropical fats to mimic the combination of all-purpose wheat flour, sugar and brown sugar, and butter…all classic ingredients found in both Chocolate Chip Blondies and Congo Bars. Proper mixing techniques in a well-tested recipe to yield a healthier version of what we all expect in an exceptional Chocolate Chip Blondie or Congo Bar. This recipe has it all…the rich, the buttery, the chewy, the ooey-gooey and the crispy-crunchy…as well as exceptional flavor. Yes indeed, my friends…this is as wicked good as wicked good gets!
Whip up a batch this weekend to share with friends and family. Everyone will think you are a gluten, grain and dairy free rock star pastry chef!
What makes our gluten, grain and dairy free Chocolate Chip Blondies or Congo Bars wicked good? The perfect blend of gluten and grain free flours combined with sugars not overly refined and the ideal ratio of tropical fats to mimic all-purpose wheat flour, sugar and brown sugar, and butter…all classic ingredients found in both Chocolate Chip Blondies and Congo Bars. Proper mixing techniques in a well-tested recipe to yield a healthier version of what we all expect in an exceptional Chocolate Chip Blondie or Congo Bar. This recipe has it all…the rich, the buttery, the ooey-gooey and the crispy-crunchy…as well as exceptional flavor. Yes indeed, my friends…this is as wicked good as wicked good gets!
- 1¼ cups (140 grams) blanched almond flour, such as Honeyville® Farms
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (135 grams) tapioca starch, such as Bob’s Red Mill®
- 5 tablespoons (35 grams) organic coconut flour, such as Bob’s Red Mill® or Tropical Traditions®
- 2 teaspoons (9.6 grams) aluminum-free baking powder
- 1 teaspoon (2.8 grams) guar gum, NOW Foods® preferred
- 1¼ teaspoons (6 grams) kosher salt, such as Morton® or 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 9 tablespoons (108 grams) organic butter flavored palm shortening, such as Spectrum®
- 3 tablespoons (42 grams) organic extra virgin coconut oil, such as Nutiva®
- 1 cup (192 grams) organic blonde coconut palm sugar, such as SweetTree®
- 1 cup (192 grams) organic granulated cane sugar
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) unsulphured molasses, such as Grandma’s®, or raw coconut nectar
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract, such as Nielsen-Massey®, or 1 large vanilla bean, split
- 3 large eggs (mine weighed 155 grams w/o shells), at room temperature
- 1 (10 ounce/283 gram) package Enjoy Life® Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
- Arrange oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 325ºF. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch metal baking pan with shortening. (I like to use my Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch® Nonstick Rectangular Cake Pan.) Line pan with baking parchment so there is an overhang. Do this by measuring parchment 4 inches in length additionally at each side of pan. This will allow 2 inches of coverage on each end once folded and tucked in. Lightly grease parchment paper. This will create “handles” which will help removing bars from pan and to easily transfer to cutting board to cut into even bars.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, guar gum and salt; set aside.
- In a small prep food processor, or in a large processor if you will be using it to prepare your dough, combine warm melted palm shortening and coconut oil and coconut palm sugar. Process mixture for 2 to 3 minutes to help dissolve and break down the hard larger coconut palm sugar crystals.
- Add sugar and the remaining wet ingredients and process until well combined, smooth and creamy. (Don’t worry if the coconut palm sugar is caramel-like and very sticky and still somewhat separated from the liquid. It will blend well once the eggs and flour are added.) If using a stand mixer, transfer wet mixture to work bowl and beat in sugar and remaining wet ingredients on medium to medium-high speed until creamy and light.
- Add flour mixture and beat with paddle attachment, or process in food processor, until dough is just blended and smooth. If using a food processor, scrape into a medium bowl. Allow dough to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes at room temperature. This will allow the flours to absorb the free liquids and become saturated. You will notice the dough will become more solid upon standing and ideal to stir in chocolate chips and scrape into pan before baking.
- Stir in chocolate chips. Using a rubber spatula, scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth the top evenly.
- Bake in preheated oven until the edges are light golden brown, the top is glossy with a crackled texture and center is still appears a bit uncooked, about 30 to 35 minutes.
- Test by inserting a toothpick into center. The dough should be soft. Do not bake over 35 minutes or Blondies will become too dry and crumbly once cooled.
- Allow bars to cool on wire rack at least 1 hour before removing from pan. This amount of cooling time will make the bars more solid and easy to handle.
- Remove from pan using folded parchment paper at sides of pan as “handles”. Transfer to large cutting board.
- Carefully cut into even squares using a ruler as a guide with a sharp chef’s knife peeling away parchment as you go.
- Keep bars stored in an airtight container at room temperature or freeze.
To Make the Traditional Way: Simply replace the grain-free flours with 2½ cups regular all-purpose wheat flour, omit the guar gum, use 1½ sticks unsalted butter instead of the palm shortening and coconut oil and use 1 cup each of granulated sugar and light brown sugar instead of the sugars called for. Use your favorite chocolate chips, about 2 cups (12 ounces). The molasses is optional but does help make these exceptional bars moist and extra ooey-gooey good.
Why Honeyville® Farms Blanched Almond Flour? Honeyville® Farms Blanched Almond Flour can be ordered online via Honeyville Grain at HoneyvilleGrain.com. This recipe will ONLY work with the superfine milling of Honeyville’s blanched almond flour which makes it more of a true grain-free ‘flour’. The blanched almond flour by Bob’s Red Mill is too coarse (not as fine) for this baking project and is more of an almond ‘meal’. It is essential to use a superfine milled blanched almond flour, such as Honeyville® Farms available at Honeyville Grain online.
Measuring & Baking Tips
Measuring: When measuring almond flour without a kitchen scale, it is imperative that you “pack” the cup full. Each cup of almond flour should measure 112 grams. This is per the manufacturers of almond flour as well as per Dr. Jean Layton, author of Gluten-Free Baking For Dummies. The only way to reach the necessary weight of 112 grams of almond flour, when measuring by volume with a measuring cup, is to pack the cup. Now, there is “lightly packing” the cup, “packing” the cup or “firmly packing” the cup as a general rule of thumb. I would say that simply “packing” the cup is ideal versus either lightly or firmly packing the cup because I conducted tests and weighed the flour after each volume measurement method. I hope this information will give you some guidelines to go by if you do not own a kitchen scale.
Baking: When baking the bars, you will need to watch them closely if you do not have an oven thermometer to calibrate your oven temperature. Cookies and pastries made with nut flours brown quickly and all too easily they can become over-browned.
Original Recipe Source: WickedGoodKitchen.com
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