These Congo Squares are among my favorite bar-cookies ever! My mom used to make chocolate chip cookies in a pan (or “Congo Squares”) to bring to every potluck function we attended, and they always flew out of their container. I’ve changed things up a bit to make these extra chewy, extra soft, and extra irresistible!
If there’s one thing that I think my little sugarspun baking space here might ever be known for, it will be for its excessive use of the words “soft and chewy”.
While I haven’t done the math myself, I have a hunch that if I had a dime for every time I used the words “soft and chewy” on this website… let’s just say all my Christmas shopping would be done and paid for, and Zach would no longer have any cause to complain when I fidget up the thermostat a few extra degrees.
Soft and chewy are my strict preference when it comes to cookies and dessert bars. I’m not a baker, I’m more of an underbaker; I like my chocolate molten and gooey, my cookies barely safe from the grips of E.Coli. It’s something in my blood, I think.
So, when I went to re-visit this old favorite recipe for Congo Squares, the primary goal that I had in mind was to make them… you guessed it… super soft, and super chewy.
And while I mentioned struggling with my last recipe and having to test it over and over, this recipe came out perfectly on the first try (of course, multiple re-trials were run, just to be safe). They were chewy with slightly golden, but not tough, edges, melt-in-your-mouth centers with copious pops of chocolate in each bite.
But let’s take a step back before we go any further: Are you familiar with Congo Squares?
If you don’t know them by name, I’m sure you can recognize them for what they are, which is essentially, simply, chocolate chip cookies bars — chocolate chip cookies baked into a pan. I suppose I could have just called them that, but my mom has been making Congo Squares my whole life, and while I don’t know where exactly the name came from, far be it from me to change a good thing.
While the name is a bit unusual, the recipe is as simple and as unfussy as they come.
Since we’re making Congo Squares and not cookies here, we don’t have to worry about spreading thanks to the confines of a 13×9 (or 9×9, see recipe notes!) pan, we can play with and reduce our leavening agents, reduce our flour, melt our butter, and make a whole number of adjustments that wouldn’t make for very stable cookies, but make for delectable squares.
If you’ve made any of my other recipes, you probably will also recognize that I love using corn starch (cornflour for UK), so of course two spoonfuls go into this batter as well — All of these changes culminate to make these Congo Squares pillowy soft and utterly irresistible (& I mean utterly, too… Zach –Mr. Notmuchofasweettooth himself — cut the first row of these bars to test, took a small corner, and then came back for the entire rest of the row).
Traditionally I’ve always made Congo Squares in a 13×9 pan, but I’ve included instructions in the recipe so that you can make them in a 9×9 pan for extra thick squares.
You really can’t go wrong either way, but after having made them both ways multiple times (research, you know) I think I like them best with the extra thickness (more congo square per bite!).
Congo Squares (Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars)
- 1 cup butter melted and then cooled for at least 5 minutes (226g)
- 1 cup light brown sugar tightly packed (200g)
- ¾ cup sugar (150g)
- 2 eggs + 1 egg yolk room temperature preferred
- 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 ½ cups all purpose flour (285g)
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (340g)
- Preheat oven to 350F (177C) and prepare either a 13x9 or 9x9 pan (13x9 for more servings, 9x9 for thicker, chewier congo squares) by lining with parchment paper (or lightly grease and flour).
- Combine melted (cooled) butter and sugars in a large bowl, stir well.
- Add eggs, and egg yolk one at a time, stirring well after each addition.
- Stir in vanilla extract.
- In a separate, medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt.
- Gradually stir dry ingredients into wet until completely combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
- Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Bake on 350F (177C) until edges just begin to turn golden brown (30 minutes for 13x9 pan; 35 minutes for 9x9 pan).
- Allow to cool before cutting and serving (don't cool too long, though -- these are amazing when served still slightly warm!)