I can almost smell the congo squares in the oven. In 1954, the Tate family lived in Pendleton, SC. We loved to gather round and “lick the bowl” while they baked! Mama always made congo squares for church picnics, long trips in the car to visit relatives, and of course at Thanksgiving and Christmastime.
Note: “Lick the bowl” involved using a long wooden spoon to scrape the bowl of unused dough and eating it — yes, uncooked!
Congo Squares – 1974
By 1974, I had a little family of my own. We lived in Wagener, SC. I always made Mama’s Congo Squares for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. And yes, they were still good — and my children loved to “lick the bowl”!
Congo Squares – 2004
In 2004 we attended the Tate Family Reunion in Helen, Georgia. My granddaughter attended with us for the very first time. What fun! And yes, again I made congo squares! And they were almost as good as they were when mama made them back in 1954!
Our Tate Family Cookbook
This recipe is taken from The Tate Table, a family cookbook created by my sister, Betty Tate DeLorme, and presented to the family in 1983. The first page reads:
When we think of home…
We cannot help but think
of the kitchen table..
Over the years, all the
laughter and fun…
Congo Squares Recipe
2 3/4 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shortening or margarine
2 1/4 cups brown sugar (1 Lb box)
1 cup nut meats (pecans in small pieces)
1 package semi-sweet chocolate morsels (small bag)
Mix and sift flour, baking powder and salt. Melt shortening and add brown sugar. Stir until well mixed. Allow to cool slightly. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add dry ingredients, then nuts, and chocolate bits. Pour into greased pan about 10 1/2 x 15 1/2 x 3/4. Bake at 350 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes.
Yield – 48 squares. When almost cool, cut into squares approximately 2 x 2.
(Joan says not to forget to “pat ’em down” about halfway through the baking process.)
2015 – My personal notes about congos!
Read and heed!
–You have to be in a hurry to make these work. In a hurry, busy, but happy! I am serious! The dough knows!
-The dough is very heavy. Mama taught me to wet my hands and pat the dough into the pan.
-When they are about half done, open the oven door, grab the rack and lift it about a half inch, and let it drop. This will cause the congos to fall, and make them ever so chewy and good.
-Our granddaughter is allergic to pecans, so we simply omit those — and the congos are still super good!
–I use self rising flour now and omit the baking powder and salt. If I cannot find that small bag of chocolate chips, I use about a cup of chocolate chips. It works out just fine.
I remember it all with this little chant Mama taught me.
“Melt butter, add sugar, beat well, let cool. Add eggs one at a time.” I still – to this day – say that as I bake congos! I am sure there was more of it, but that is the part I remember!
In my notes, mama has written — “tee hee – take it easy on intake – very fattening!”
ADDENDUM: I think in our modern age, all flour is pre-sifted, so you do not have to worry about that anymore.
PS Granddaughter Jessica is now 13 years old and loves to make the congos. I am so happy she has taken on this family tradition.