What is ube?
Ube, pronounce ooh-beh, is a purple yam often used in desserts; specifically, in the Philippines (where my family is from). It has a beautiful, deep purple color and is almost exclusively used in dessert recipes, where it gives the sweets a wonderful earthy and almost nutty flavor. Think of it as similar to a sweet potato, but definitely more subtle and not quite as sweet. Some folks have even compared its flavor to a mix between vanilla and pistachio. In the past, I’ve used ube in recipes for cake, cinnamon rolls, and babka.
Ube vs taro
A lot of folks get ube confused with taro. Not only do they taste pretty similar, but taro also can come in a light lavender color (although it mostly comes in white). But they’re actually just completely different plants. Although both ube and taro are tubers, taro is cultivated from the taro plant. Unlike ube, it’s not classified as a “yam”. In the Philippines, taro is often used in savory cooking, while ube is reserved for sweets.
And finally, it’s important to note that both ube and taro are also different from the different varieties of purple sweet potatoes available. And it turns out that some of those sweet potatoes, like the Okinawan sweet potato, aren’t even technically sweet potatoes either. It’s confusing, I know. So for the purposes of this recipe, I’ll keep it simple: these ube blossom cookies are made with UBE. Not taro, and not any kind of purple sweet potato, lol.
Ube crinkle cookies vs ube blossom cookies
When I lived in New York City, I befriended Autumn, the owner of Brooklyn Kolache, a bakery in my old neighborhood that specialized in kolaches. Not only was I delighted to find her bakery in the first place (in the US, kolaches are realllly hard to find outside of Texas—where I went to high school!—which is a shame because they’re DELICIOUS), but I was shocked to discover that she sold ube filled kolaches! It turned out that her husband Dennis is Filipino; he had gotten her hooked on the stuff. So much so that she developed an ube crinkle cookie recipe to sell at his bar, Swell Dive.
To this day, I maintain it’s one of the best cookies I’ve ever eaten. So I was shocked/blessed/eternally grateful when I somehow convinced her to share the recipe with me. It’s become a tradition for me to make them for the holidays this time of year (see: here and here). And every time I do, I get flooded with folks asking me for the recipe—it’s hard to resist the the call of the ube crinkle cookie, lol. Unfortunately, Autumn made me swear not to share her bakery’s recipe with anybody else, and I refuse to break her promise.
So in its place, we have ube blossom cookies. I’m not going to lie—these cookies are similar to the original ube crinkle cookie recipe that everybody wants. But also, not really. Autumn’s original ube crinkle cookie recipe makes really soft and cakey cookies. But because they’re so soft and pillowy, they also spread too much to support the weight of the Hershey’ kiss. And of course, blossom cookies aren’t blossom cookies without that kiss! So I ended up futzing around with the amount of flour and leaveners to give these cookies a more traditional “blossom cookie” look and texture. These are denser and chewier, but still utterly addicting.
Ingredients to make ube blossom cookies (it’s all about that ube flavor, baby!)
To make ube blossom cookies, you need a couple of key ingredients:
Fun fact: it is actually really hard to buy fresh ube (that is, ube still in its tuber form). That’s because ube is really hard to process: it needs to be peeled, boiled for a long time, then grated and mashed into its signature texture. So typically, most ube is bought frozen or processed into a powder, extract, or jam. In the Philippines, the jam is called “ube halaya” and is typically what people mean when they say “ube” in recipes.
Think of ube extract as similar to vanilla or almond extract, but with ube flavor instead. Most ube extracts are also dyed purple, further enhancing the color of your ube baked good.
Where to buy ube
Ube halaya jam is typically found in the “Filipino” aisle of any Asian supermarket, close to jars of preserved jackfruit, macapuno (a coconut hybrid much beloved in the Philippines), and other fruits commonly found in the country. In the US, the brand I most commonly see is Monika; it’s what I use anytime I make anything ube (Portlanders—Monika ube halaya is available at Fubonn and Uwajimaya). You can also buy ube halaya (as well as its powdered counterpart) on Amazon, but I don’t recommend doing so—they are much more expensive than they should be, especially the jam!
In the US, there’s only one company I know that makes ube extract, and it’s a company that most people already should be familiar with, too: McCormick. However, unlike most of their extracts, the ube extract isn’t available in most supermarkets—you’ll also need to go to an Asian supermarket and find it in their baking aisle, typically found near jasmine, coconut, and durian flavored extracts (Portlanders—McCormick Ube Extract is available at Fubonn and the H Mart on Belmont). You can also buy their ube extract on Amazon. (UPDATE: you can also buy this ube extract from Butterfly, but I’ve never used it so I can’t vouch for it—report back if you have and let me know if it’s any good!)
Best ube blossom cookie recipe tips
- Although both ube halaya and ube extract are purple, you’ll definitely get more attractive cookies if you also use purple food coloring (without it, they cookies look more like a brownish-pale purple). For these cookies, I used a purple from this “Nifty Fifty” food coloring set, which you can also buy as an individual bottle online.
- For this recipe, I highly encourage you to invest in a 1-tablespoon cookie dough scoop. Because of the ube, the dough is quite sticky. It can be hard to form cookie dough balls without the scoop. If you insist on resisting my advice to buy one, chill the dough for a few hours, preferably even overnight, to make it easier to handle.
- Because the dough is so sticky, I instruct you to drop the cookie dough balls directly into the powdered sugar to coat them. Coating them will make them a lot easier to handle. Don’t be afraid to use a LOT of powdered sugar for the event; the cookies tend to partially absorb the powdered sugar, so you’ll get more attractive cookies if you really coat them. I also suggest leaving the powdered sugar unsifted. Bigger lumps look better on the cookies!
- Once the cookies are done baking, you’ll need to immediately press a Hershey’s Hug into the center of each cookie while they’re still warm and malleable. Press firmly but gently—you want to use enough pressure that the Hug indents the cookie, but not so much that it causes the cookie to spread more. The residual heat from the cookies will cause the bottoms of the Hugs to melt, “gluing” them onto the cookies. But be warned—if the cookies are TOO hot, the rest of the Hug will melt too! Try not to move the sheet pan once you’ve “glued” the Hugs onto the cookies; if you move them when everything’s still too hot, the Hugs will slide and lose their shape.
More ube recipes
- Baked Ube Coconut Donuts by Lito Supply
- Homemade Ube Ice Cream by The Unlikely Baker
- Overnight Ube Cinnamon Rolls by Hummingbird High
- Ube Babka by Hummingbird High
- Ube Chiffon Cake by The Little Epicurean
- Ube Layer Cake by Hummingbird High
- Ube Sticky Rice with Mangoes by Pepper
Ube Blossom Cookie Recipe
- Special Equipment: a 1-tablespoon cookie dough scoop
- 1 ¾ cup (7.85 ounces or 223 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (7 ounces or 198 grams) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (4 ounces or 113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup (4 ounces or 113 grams) ube halaya jam
- 1 teaspoon purple food coloring
- 1 teaspoon ube extract
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups (6 ounces or 170 grams) confectioners' sugar (see baker's notes)
Hershey's Hugs Candies, unwrapped
- Prep your oven and pans. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two half sheet pans with parchment paper.
- Make the cookie dough. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar and butter. Beat on medium-high until light, fluffy, and doubled in volume, 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the mixer to low and add the egg; beat until just combined. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. With the mixer on low, add the ube halaya jam, purple food coloring, ube extract, and vanilla extract, beating until combined and completely purple, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl once more, and beat on low for an additional 30 seconds.
- Coat the cookies. Place the confectioners' sugar in a medium, shallow bowl. Use a 1-tablespoon cookie dough scoop to portion the cookie dough into balls, dropping them directly into the bowl with confectioners' sugar. Toss until the cookie dough balls are completely and generously coated. Place the cookie dough balls at least 3 inches apart on the prepared sheet pans.
- Bake the cookies. Bake one pan at a time for 12 minutes, or until the edges have set but the centers are still soft.
- Serve and store. Serve warm, or at room temperature. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container or zip-top bag at room temperature for up to 3 days.
This post was last updated 9/20/2020.
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Over the past several years of running Hummingbird High, I kept a crucial aspect of my life hidden from my readers: I had a full-time, extremely demanding job in the tech world. In my debut cookbook, Weeknight Baking, I finally reveal the secrets to baking delicious desserts on a tight schedule.