Bars or Squares

Nearly every Sunday morning of my childhood was spent at my grandparents’ house. I suppose this was my version of going to Church. Except that there was margarine-laden popcorn, grape soda from DeMoula’s, toxically-orange-colored crackers with peanut butter, and my uncle’s fantastic freshly baked treats.

I would always dash up the stairs of the old house, dragging my bag of library books and new board games to show my grandparents. I’m pretty sure this was just a way of relief for my parents from my only-child-induced energy. Nonetheless, the best part about every Sunday of my childhood was the food (other than playing with Lincoln Logs). My grandmother once showed me how to make a pie, which merely ended up with me making cut-out stars and hearts out of the dough. My uncle would bring tins full of hermit cookies and his famous spice cookies:

To put it simply, I ate well on Sundays.

In my head, I split my family into two classes. My mom’s side does most of the savory, dinner dishes whereas my dad’s side does the baking, both dessert and dinner. Obviously there are exceptions to this, but in general this holds true. It’s the best of both worlds.

Skip ahead to my freshman year of college. I received a package in the mail right before I had to take my dreadful general chemistry final exam. I assumed it was another one of my dad’s joke packages (past mailings included a picture of him with a stuffed squirrel on his shoulder, or more infamously the one-inch squared box of sand he sent for me to put underneath my car’s tires in the snow).

Instead, he sent me Magic Squares. Delicious graham-cracker crust with chocolate chips and coconut piled on top, a common recipe that has been passed down and evolved through our family. My chemistry exam wasn’t fun but at the end of the day, I at least had these to devour, raising my spirits incredibly.

The following summer, I diverged from the family-recipe and made Congo Bars. Congo Bars are essentially Magic Squares but without the graham-cracker crust and condensed milk. Both are divine to eat, and both have quite unappealing names (Magic Squares sound like pot brownies and Congo Bars just remind me of Conga dance lines).

Since I’m in Australia currently, I don’t have the Magic Squares recipe on hand. For now, make these Congo Bars. I dare you to only eat one.

Adapted from: The Curvy Carrot

Makes 12 bars


1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

12 tbs (1 and 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 and 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar

2 eggs

1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, plus more for topping

1/2 cup white chocolate chips, plus more for topping

1 and 1/2 cups shredded coconut


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In another bowl, use electric mixer to combine the melted butter and brown sugar. On medium-low speed, add the eggs and vanilla, mixing well. Stop the mixer and fold in the flour mixture with a rubber spatula, mixing until just combined. Add the chocolate chips and coconut to the batter.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared baking pan. Top the batter with extra chocolate chips and coconut. Bake for 22-25 minutes.


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