How much of a sweet potato fan are you? I tasted my first patate douce as a teenager, learning how to speak English and became an instant fan of this very American vegetable. An oven roasted sweet potato with a generous pat of salted butter tastes so good, it’s hard to believe that it’s actually a healthy choice. Today, I made sweet potatoes even better, albeit a little less healthy, by folding them into buttery and crunchy sweet potato hand pies.
The inspiration to make these sweet potato hand pies (which could just as easily be called empenadas), came from a lunch I attended yesterday. I was a guest of the Sweet Potato Commission for lunch at Ina’s Restaurant , a Chicago institution. We had a gazillion delicious sweet potato dishes: Moroccan Sweet Potato Stew, sweet potato bisque, turkey burger with sweet potato slaw, even sweet potato creme brulee. The dish that stood out above all else were the sweet potato hand pies. Ina paired the sweet potato with Italian sausage and it was the perfect balance of sweet and spicy.
I got to ask all my burning sweet potato questions.
- How do yams differ from sweet potatoes? (in the US, no difference)
- Where are sweet potatoes grown in the US? (50% come from North Carolina)
- Is there more than one season? (one growing season per year)
And I even learned some surprising facts:
- That pat of butter on my sweet potato serves a purpose. It helps me absorb more Vitamin A.
- Sweet potatoes shouldn’t be stored in the fridge. The cold stops the conversion of starch to sugar and gives them a hard center.
- Sweet potatoes have much more moisture than regular potatoes which is why sweet potato fries are so hard to get crunchy.
- Sweet potatoes are not related in any way to regular potatoes.
Because we were tasting so many things, we only had a mini sweet potato and sausage pie, but I drove home craving more and had to try to make them my own. To make the hand pies appealing to the kids, I added corn and raisins to the sweet potatoes instead of sausage. The next time I make these hand pies, I’ll let everyone create their own, assembly line style. Once the dough is rolled and cut out, mixing up the fillings is easy and fun.
The recipe below calls for homemade pie dough. I whip it up in the food processor with three ingredients and that’s easier for me than walking through the supermarket with baby and kids in tow. But if refrigerated dough makes your life easier, then go for it. The point of these hand pies is to make them, grab them, and eat them, not to sit around debating the most optimal dough.
- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- ⅛ tsp baking powder
- 8 tbsps (1 stick) of butter
- 2 to 3 tbsps cold water
- 2 Sweet Potatoes
- ¼ cup of raisins
- ¼ cup of frozen corn
- 1 egg
- 1 TBSP of salted butter
- Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse 2 or 3 times quickly to mix.
- Cut the butter into 1 tbsp pieces and add to food processor. Pulse over and over again very quickly until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal. You should not be able to see any more large pieces of butter.
- Scatter 1 tablespoon of tap water on the butter and flour mixture and pulse 5 to 6 times. The dough should begin to hold together. If the mixture still appears dry and crumbly, add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time.
- Remove the dough from the food processor. In your hands, roll it into a uniform ball. Place it on a piece of plastic wrap. Press it down into a 6-inch disk and cover with another piece of plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate the dough until firm, or until you are ready to use it, at least 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prick the sweet potatoes all over with a fork. Roast for an hour, until soft and cooked through.
- Cut the sweet potatoes in half, scoop out the flesh. Top with butter and mash with a fork until all the butter is dissolved and the sweet potato is completely mashed. Add corn and raisins to the mixture and incorporate evenly.
- Increase the oven heat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove pie crust from the fridge and roll it out as thinly as possible. Cut it into rounds using a small bowl. The Ikea children’s plastic bowls are a size I like. Lay on a silpat on a cookie sheet.
- Spoon 2 tablespoons of the sweet potato mixture in the center of each mini pie crust. Carefully fold over half of the dough and pinch the edges together. Feel free to use a fork to make a pretty pattern on the edges.
- Mix an egg yolk with a tablespoon of water. Paint the egg wash on top of each pie crust. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden. Eat warm or cold, whatever will appeal more to your child.