Recently, my friend from elementary school, Ben, reached out to me on Facebook after seeing my blog (Hi Ben!). I hadn’t heard from him in years, so when he asked me if I ever made my mom’s congo bars it brought back a flood of memories. I hadn’t thought about my mom’s beloved congo bars in ages. In fact, I couldn’t even recall that last time she made them.
But when i was growing up, my mom used to always make Congo Bars. By the way, if you’re sitting there scratching your head, wondering what the heck a congo bar is, then think of it like a blondie. In fact, I don’t even know if there is a discernible difference between a congo bar and a blondie. Is there?
Whenever I had friends come over for playdates, study sessions, sleepovers, etc. there seemed to always be a batch of ooey-gooey melty congo bars.
Ben, in particular, loved my mom’s congo bars. In fact, he loved them so much that he made up a song and dance about them. No joke. My mom loved this, of course, so just about every week she asked me if she should make a batch of congo bars just for Ben (my mom is one of the most thoughtful, generous women you will ever meet and if she knows you love one of her baked goods, she will make sure to always bake it for you).
Ben’s comment got me craaaaaaaaaaaaaving one of my mom’s congo bars. So, I set out a healthier version of my beloved childhood treat.
In this version we’re using chickpeas.
Yup, chickpeas. No flour. These are gluten-free. In fact, they’re vegan, too (unintentionally, but hey now I am just pleasing loads of different diets!)
And what goes better with chickpeas then peanut butter, am I right!?
I’m kidding. I’ll admit we’re doing weird things with these blondies. It is completely strange combination, but it works, so just hang in there a little while longer, would’ya?
You’re going to need a food processor or a very good blender. Everything gets thrown in and blended up all nice and smooth. You just let that food processor do alllllll the work.
I may or may not have eaten 1/3 of the batter before it went into the pan. I mean, there was no egg in it, and it was calling to me….so what’s a girl to do – just let it sit there??
See if you can exercise a little more self-restraint than me and get the batter into the pan sooner than I did. In the end you’ll have some pretty delicious congo bars / blondies / whatever the heck you want to call them.
You would never in one million years know these contain chickpeas…OR they’re gluten-free and vegan. Next time I may try adding an egg to the batter and see if they come out more “cakey” as opposed to fudgey. It’s all about experimenting.
1 15oz. can unsalted chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup natural unsalted peanut butter or almond butter* (See note below)
1/4 – 1/3 cup maple syrup (to taste)**
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 bar good quality dark-chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup chocolate chips for sprinkling (optional)
1. Preaheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8×8 baking pan.
2. Combine all ingredients besides the chocolate in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth (about 45 seconds). Gently fold in the chopped dark chocolate.
3. Pour the mixture into the baking pan. Sprinkle the top with additional chocolate chips (optional). Bake for 25 minutes or until the edges begin to harden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The blondies will harden as they cool, so be careful not to overcook them. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Be careful not to cut them too soon, or you will just get blondie mess instead of nice squares!
*Note: Peanut Butter will provide a noticeable peanut butter taste and almond butter will be mild and less detectable.
**Note: You can substitute honey, but they will no longer be vegan.