This recipe was inspired by the compact portable foods originally made for laborers that we find in many traditional cultures: bunny chow in South Africa, patties in Jamaica, zongzi in China, hand pies in the southern United States. The combination of butternut squash and sesame seeds alone makes a fun and filling side (feel free to go there), but this duo stuffed inside a flaky shell makes these hand pies a pick-up-and-go food that kids love. Serving them with silky sweet potato—sage cream makes this a super snack. A touch of acid is required to make this dish really pop, so serve them with lemon halves and encourage folks to spray some juice on each bite.
2½ cups diced peeled butternut squash
3 teaspoons melted coconut oil
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon plus ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
½ cup toasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
Freshly ground white pepper
1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
¾ cup coconut oil
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons ice water
2 tablespoons unsweetened oat milk
1 tablespoon dark agave nectar
sweet potato—sage cream
¼ cup safflower oil
6 fresh sage leaves plus 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
Coarse sea salt
1¼ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
¼ cup Cashew Cream
1 teaspoon coconut palm sugar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
3 large lemons, cut in half
Make the filling: Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a bowl, combine the squash, the coconut oil, the cinnamon, and ⅛ teaspoon of the salt and toss until the squash is evenly coated. Transfer to the baking sheet and roast until tender and starting to brown on the edges, about 30 minutes, stirring once after 15 minutes.
Put the sesame seeds into a large bowl and set aside.
When the squash is finished cooking, transfer it to the bowl with the sesame seeds. Pour in the maple syrup and stir,
mashing the squash with a fork. If needed, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, so that the mixture is moist. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside while you make the pastry.
Make the pastry: In a large bowl, combine 1½ cups of the all-purpose flour, the pastry flour, turmeric, and salt and mix well. Dollop the coconut oil into the flour mixture. Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator and chill until the coconut oil is firm, 20 to 30 minutes.
Using clean hands, rub the coconut oil into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles fine sand, about 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and ice water and mix well. While stirring, add the vinegar mixture to the flour mixture by the tablespoon just until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and begins to coalesce. You may not use all of the water mixture, but you should use most of it; do not overwork the dough. The dough should have the texture of slightly dry Play-Doh. Squeeze it into a tight ball, flatten the ball, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour. (Do not leave the dough in the refrigerator for much more than an hour.)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Lightly dust a clean work surface with the remaining ¼ cup all-purpose flour. Roll out the dough until it is about ⅛ inch thick. Cut six 6-inch circles from the dough, using a cereal bowl as a guide. If needed, gather the scraps, roll them out a second time, and cut more circles in order to get six total.
Spoon 2 heaping tablespoons of the filling onto one half of each circle, leaving about a ⅛-inch border. Fold the other half over to make a half-moon and press the edges to seal (if your dough is on the dry side, you may need to run wet fingers around the edge of the circles before folding them over the filling to help get a good seal). Crimp the edges using a fork.
In a small bowl, combine the oat milk and agave nectar and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
Transfer the hand pies to the prepared baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes, brushing the oat milk–agave mixture onto the pastries 20 minutes into cooking to give them a beautiful brown color.
Make the sweet potato—sage cream: While the hand pies are baking, line a plate with a paper towel and set aside. Heat the safflower oil over medium-high heat in a small skillet. Fry the whole sage leaves until crisp, about 3 seconds. Remove the skillet from the heat and use a fork to immediately transfer the leaves to the plate. Sprinkle the leaves with salt to taste and set them and the oil aside.
Place the sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan and add enough water to cover them by ½ inch. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, immediately lower the heat to medium, and simmer, partially covered, until the sweet potatoes are fork-tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well.
Transfer the sweet potatoes to a food processor and add the cashew cream, 2 teaspoons of the sage oil (reserving the remaining oil for another use), the sugar, maple syrup, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Process until smooth, adding enough water to make the mixture loose enough to smear across a plate. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the minced sage. Season to taste with salt.
To serve, smear the sweet potato—sage cream over one side of six plates, top each with a hand pie, and garnish with a fried sage leaf. You can also serve these “family style” by placing the pies on a platter and the sweet potato-sage cream in a bowl garnished with a couple of crispy sage leaves. Either way, serve with lemon halves or some other acid for adding to each bite.