Monday, May 24, 2010

Lava Flow in the Congo

When I saw this recipe for congo bars on Bakerella I knew I just had to make it. Originally, I had thought I was going to make it for my uncle in exchange for plants, but he forgot to give them to my mom when she came up to visit. Well plbbbt I say! Actually, it was a good thing that I wasn't planning on giving these bars to him. They turned out...well...not how I intended.

I baked the bars for 35 minutes, 5 minutes more than the recipe stated. The recipe also said to be sure not to over cook the bars. I thought that the center didn't look 100% set, but I figured it would firm up as it cooled.

After letting the bars cool for nearly 2 hours, I began to cut portions to my family. Excuse me, did I say cut? I meant scoop. The middle was a ooey gooey mess. A delicious ooey gooey mess. It was very much like a chocolate chip version of lava cake. We all happily consumed what was placed in front of us.

Had these been baked in individual ramekins there would not have been any issue. However, I baked mine in a 9x13 dish. The row of "bars" that I removed from the pan caused the rest of the gooey middle to ooze into the now unoccupied section of the pan. How was I going to store the leftovers? Not in our bellies! These bars were sweet and a second helping would have made us sick. So, back into the oven the bars went. For ANOTHER 35 minutes.

Here is what the bars looked like after they came out of the oven the second time:
You can hardly tell where the missing row was. The edges and the oozy overflow were considerably more crunchy than the middle, but not so hard that you'd break a tooth attempting to chomp on it. The middle was the best part, but I didn't hear anyone complaining about eating an edge piece once all the middle pieces were gone.

My mom did say that she thought they were the best that first day in there lava state. I told her that I would eat her portion if she didn't think the bars were good. She protectively pulled her plate closer to her and made a wall with her hands to hide her dessert from me. I'm not sure if she said anything cause she was so busy shoving bar into her gob.
So what went wrong?

The original recipe said that you need a pound of brown sugar. A. Pound. Of Brown Sugar. Ok, so I don't have a scale and I buy my brown sugar in the 4 lb bag. Someone commented on Bakerella's site that she uses 2 1/4 c of brown sugar when she makes her congo bars. I went with that.

Mrblocko thought maybe there was too much brown sugar. I did some research and found out that a pound of brown sugar is the equivalent to 2 1/3 c packed brown sugar. I highly doubt that less brown sugar would have made it more viscous.

Could it be the amount of chips used? I had a bunch of partial bags of chips in the pantry that I wanted to use up. I wound up using 3 cups of a combination of: toffee, semi sweet, butterscotch and caramel chips. The recipe says to use 2 cups of chips and a cup of nuts. But chips stay fairly solid while baking and don't become a part of the batter. The chips may melt but they stay where they are for the most part.

Was it my oven? I don't think so. Everything else I've baked recently has been cooked in the specified time listed in the recipe.

The only other thing I can think of was that the bars were baked in a glass pan. In the past I've had to increase baking times because I used a glass pan, but I've never had to double the baking time before. I read all the comments on Bakerella's site and it seems like I'm not the only one who had a problem getting the bars to solidify.

At first, I vowed that I would never make this dessert again. Now that the bars are all gone, I must be in withdrawal. Even though it's a million degrees out with 400% humidity, I have this strange desire to make another batch in a metal pan. I'm quite curious to see if the glass pan was the culprit.

Congo Bars from Bakerella
2 3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter, softened
1 lb. light brown sugar (Oh my and thank you!)
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
11.5 ounce package milk chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

By mixer:
Sift flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Set aside. Combine butter and sugar using a mixer until blended. Add eggs, one at a time to sugar mixture, mixing on low in between each addition. Add vanilla and mix. Add flour and mix until combined. Stir in chips and then pecans.

By hand:
Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Set aside.Stir brown sugar into softened (not melted) butter in another large bowl until butter disappears. You can use the back of your spoon to help incorporate the two together. Add eggs one at a time to butter mixture and stir well after each egg. Add vanilla, chocolate chips and nuts. Mix well. Add dry flour mixture and stir until well combined.

Coat a 13 X 9 pan with non-stick spray and spread batter evenly into dish.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until top is golden brown. Make sure you don’t over bake.


  1. I am 100% with you. Same exact experience for me. I think I'll try the experiment too. They were tastey the way they turned out.. But I want mine to look like Bakerella's and maybe they taste better that way too?

  2. Goodness...I would be doomed if they tasted better.


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