For years, my father would tell me about the Congo squares that his grandmother, affectionately known as 'Big Bubbie', would often bake when he was growing up. Having nothing whatsoever to do with Africa, Congo squares are a Southern chocolate chip cookie and blondie hybrid that were quite a popular American treat throughout the early to mid-20th century. As the story goes, my father's grandmother would keep these freshly baked cookie bars on her kitchen counter, having made them especially for her son, Joe, the doctor. When her grandchildren would come to visit her and request a Congo square, they would be met with disappointment upon being informed that they were "just for Joe." At least that's how it seemed to my father and his cousins, who have confirmed his version of the story. Obviously, they enjoyed their grandmother's Congo squares at some point, as they all know what they taste like, but their tale makes for good family memories, at least.
Years after Big Bubbie had passed on, my father asked me to search the internet for the Congo squares he so fondly remembered his grandmother making, the recipe having been lost to the family. After testing a few recipes, we found 'the' recipe, which is believed to have originally appeared on the back of a brown sugar box or a package of chocolate chips. Chewy, chocolaty, moist, dense, slightly cakey, and nutty, these cookie bars rock. Most importantly, Uncle Joe (now a retired doctor) has confirmed they taste authentic. The real deal. Success.
Please note that it is of key importance for the optimal desired result, to prepare this recipe by hand, using only a fork for mixing the ingredients, and to bake the batter in a real (non-disposable) 9x9-inch aluminum pan. Nothing else. Trust me, folks. Also, as with any recipe, I recommend slightly toasting the pecans before incorporating them into the batter. Enjoy, y'all.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt butter or margarine in a saucepan (or in a glass bowl in microwave, if desired). Add brown sugar and mix well with a fork to create a paste. Add eggs one at a time, continuing to beat the mixture with a fork. Slowly add all the dry ingredients, vanilla, and pecans, and mix well. Pour batter into a well-greased 9x9-inch square aluminum pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a inserted toothpick comes out fairly dry (the squares should still be slightly moist) and the top has formed a shiny crust.
Left: Big Bubbie Right: Her son, Joe, the doctor.