Make Shop Halo Halo’s Bright Purple Ube Crinkle Cookies
aking for a crowd is nothing new for Geleen Abenoja. While growing up in Renton, Washington, she began making desserts at age 7 for dinner parties with her extended family, for guest lists that could top 50. “We would get together at least on a biweekly basis to have dinner together, celebrate birthdays, special occasions—and my aunts and my mom would put me in charge of making sweets,” she says.
Christmas was an even bigger deal, with many more family members and a three-day-long celebration that cycled through eating, opening presents, recovering from eating and opening presents, and eating again. On the dessert table, you’d find Abenoja’s favorite dessert called sans rival, a traditional Filipino cake made of layered cashew meringue and buttercream—plus bibingka especial (rice cake topped with cheese, salted duck egg, and coconut) and turon (bananas wrapped in egg roll wrappers and fried).
When Abenoja moved to Portland in 2012, there were few bakeries selling the Filipino treats she grew up with. After the restaurant where she was working as a pastry chef shut down during the pandemic, Abenoja took the leap with her own Filipino baked-goods pop-up, Shop Halo Halo. Also the name of a popular Filipino ice cream dessert with a variety of jellies and other additions, halo halo means “mix mix” and refers to the mash-up of traditional and fusion desserts Abenoja sells. Shop Halo Halo has everything from ube-flavored cheese-stuffed pandesal, a take on a popular Filipino bread, to passion fruit tres leches cake. This winter, Shop Halo Halo will open its own brick-and-mortar space in the Woodstock neighborhood, where it’ll serve as a bakery, café, and plant shop in conjunction with Daphne’s Botanicals, owned by fellow Filipina entrepreneur Daphne Peters.
Shop Halo Halo’s top sellers include ube crinkle cookies, a vibrant and cheery take on the classic Christmastime chocolate mint crinkle. The purple-hued yam is all over Instagram these days thanks to its rich color and subtle, marshmallow-like flavor, but it’s long played a key role in Filipino cuisine. It’s often boiled and mashed and made into a jam called ube halaya, which you can make at home or buy in stores. The jam can be eaten on its own, spread on toast, or used in desserts like these cookies. “Ube itself is native to the Philippines, which isn’t something that’s commonly known,” says Abenoja.
And while you can now get ube pancake mix and ube spread at your neighborhood Trader Joe’s, the ingredient hasn’t always been easy to find at grocery stores. “When I was growing up, if I brought purple food to school for lunch, I would get made fun of for it,” says Abenoja. “But I’m happy that more Filipino culture and Filipino food is making its way into mainstream cuisine.”
Ube Crinkle Cookies
Makes about 15 cookies
- 1 1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1⁄4 tsp salt
- 1⁄2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1⁄4 cup brown sugar
- 1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg
1⁄2 cup ube halaya (purple yam jam, which can usually be found in the canned fruit or Filipino food aisle of your local Asian grocery store—try Fubonn, SF Supermarket,
or Hong Phat)
- 1 tsp ube extract
- Powdered sugar for coating
- Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, add butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat until light and fluffy. Add egg, ube halaya, and ube extract. Mix until well combined.
- Add dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Chill the bowl of dough in freezer about 10 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Remove dough from freezer, scoop a heaping tablespoon of it, and roll into a ball. Roll each ball in powdered sugar until well coated. Place dough on baking sheets and bake 15–18 minutes. Enjoy!
Notes: To make this recipe vegan, substitute butter and egg with the equivalent of your preferred vegan alternative; Abenoja uses Earth Balance Vegan Butter and Ener-g egg replacer.