Congo Brownie Bars

I’m struggling with a bit of writer’s block for these bars – I can’t seem to think of too many adjectives to describe them, except that they are good. Really, really good.

They are composed of a perfectly chewy blondie layer and a not-too-intense chocolate brownie layer.

I liked these – a lot. They have earned the distinction of being one of the few recipes that I’ve baked an entire batch of, just so I could have extras in the freezer.  Something about their simplicity really hit the spot.

The original recipe calls for a cup of walnuts to be sprinkled over the blondie batter before baking, but as you can see, I left them out. I contemplated throwing a handful of chocolate chips into the brownie batter, but I’m glad I didn’t. I think it would have interfered with the harmony of two smooth bars baked together.

This recipe is definitely worth making – again.

Congo Brownie Bars – adapted from Flo Braker

Blondie layer:

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 ¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
3 oz. unsalted butter, melted
1 ¼ cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg white (save the yolk for the brownies)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Brownie layer:
1 cup plus 2 tbs. all purpose flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
4 oz. unsalted butter
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 pan with nonstick spray, and set aside.

Make the blondie layer first: Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, mix together the butter, brown sugar, egg, egg white and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until blended. Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared pan and use an off set spatula to spread it evenly. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the top is no longer shiny – about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and set it aside while you prepare the brownie layer.

Make the brownie layer: Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. In a small saucepan, over very low heat, melt together the butter and unsweetened chocolate, stirring until smooth. Stir in the granulated sugar, then add the eggs, egg yolk and vanilla, and stir to combine. Add the dry ingredients and mix just to incorporate. Drop dollops of the brownie batter over the blondie layer, and use an offset spatula to spread it as evenly as possible.

Return the pan to the oven, and bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the top is no longer shiny, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached. Allow to cool before cutting and/or serving.

Yield: 2 dozen (or more, depending upon how you cut them)

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Cocoa Brownies

This month’s brownie recipe was suggested to me by Shannon – and I’d like to thank her for taking the time to email me, because I was in a bit of quandary about which recipe to make next. So, thanks Shannon!

She recommended that I try Alton Brown’s Cocoa Brownies – and she did indicate that she was concerned about the amount of butter in the recipe, as 2 sticks of butter for an 8” pan seemed excessive.

I plunged ahead and made these a few nights ago, but as bad luck would have it, I ran out of regular cocoa powder and had to substitute dutch-process powder instead. After I took the first bite, though, the first thing that popped into my head was “butter”. Shannon’s fears were not unfounded – the brownies tasted more like a buttery cake than a brownie.

But not using the correct cocoa powder bothered me – because maybe they would taste different if I had used regular cocoa powder instead? So last night, I tried again, using Hershey’s regular unsweetened cocoa powder. I also added an extra bit of flour, in the hopes that the final product wouldn’t taste so “buttery”.

The conclusion to this story? While these are ok, they lack a chocolatey “punch” that I look for when I eat a brownie. The flavor is fine if you like super mild brownies, but for me, the taste lacked depth. Of course, adding chocolate chips probably wouldn’t be considered a bad idea, either.

If anyone else has made these with good results, I’d love to know!

Cocoa Brownies – adapted from Alton Brown

Soft butter, for greasing the pan
Flour, for dusting the buttered pan
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar, sifted
1 cup brown sugar, sifted
8 ounces melted butter
11/4 cups cocoa, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Butter and flour an 8-inch square pan. In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs at medium speed until fluffy and light yellow. Add both sugars. Add remaining ingredients, and mix to combine.

Pour the batter into a greased and floured 8-inch square pan and bake for 45 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the pan. It should come out clean. When they’re done, remove the pan to a rack to cool.