Blondies aka Congo Bars
This past weekend, my Novio and I went to hear a group that he’s crazy about, Bela Fleck and The Flecktones. He’s been raving about them for years and last weekend I finally learned why. Have I been living under a rock? The music they make is pure joy. Emotionally exhilarating and intellectually stimulating. Mostly instrumental, it just cannot be pigeon-holed into any particular genre. Jazz, bluegrass, fusion, classical, funk, world music – they flow from one to the other. These guys are geniuses. Bela Fleck plays the most awesome banjo (check him out, Lior!).
During the concert, I felt like I was alternately on this wonderful train or floating on a magic carpet. I found myself contemplating how we experience joy in life through our senses.
With food, if you’re into it like me, all of your senses are engaged. Open the door of any home where action is happening in the kitchen, and the delicious aromas hit you, baking or otherwise. Taste is another obvious one. But there’s also the musical pop of sauteing onions, the color riot at any farmer’s market and the touch of a fuzzy peach or an impossibly smooth eggplant.
I’ve been doing a lot of posts lately on delicious and healthful foods. Have you noticed my affinity for lentils this month? I’m either using up the beans in my kitchen or cleaning through my pantry or both.
Something deliciously desserty was in order. Blondies! Blondies (some people know them as Congo Bars) are bar cookies with endless possibilities for invention, just like Bela Fleck’s music. They can simply be a chocolate chip cookie in bar form. Or you can experiment with all sorts of variations in addition to or in place of chocolate chips: nuts, coconut, dried cranberries, dried cherries, white chocolate chips.
Does this look like the surface of the moon to you?
Here’s a blondies version I love:
Ingredients:1 1/2 c. unbleached flour 1 t. baking powder 1/2 t. salt 1 1/2 sticks sweet butter, room temperature 1 1/4 c. light brown sugar 2 eggs, room temperature 2 t. pure vanilla ( the good stuff, always the good stuff) 1/2 c. (3/4 c. is wonderful) chocolate chips (I like the largest milk chocolate chips I can find) 1/2 c. white chocolate chips 1 c. pecans, coarsely chopped 1/2 c. unsweetened coconut (find it in the health foods section or a Whole Foods)
Preheat oven to 350°.
Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Set aside.
Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan or line with parchment paper (fold and crease the paper into the corners so you can spread the batter evenly).
Cream butter and sugar by hand until very light and fluffy or beat for about 3 minutes using stand mixer. Add eggs, one at a time and mix into butter/sugar mixture. Add vanilla.
Stir in flour mixture (low speed on stand mixer). Add chips, nuts and coconut.
Spread evenly in baking pan, from center outward.
Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until shiny and slightly cracked on top and feels firm to the touch. If they seem a bit undercooked, that’s okay. They firm up a little as they cool and you don’t want them overly hard. Place on rack to cool, then cut into squares or rectangles (cut an 8×4 grid or a 9×4 grid).
Makes 32 -36 bars
Optional: Delete white chocolate chips and double the amount of chocolate chips to 1 cup.