Dreading having the same old thing again this year at the holiday dinner table? Wanting to impress the fam with a vegan recipe that’ll make them say, without a doubt, “This is vegan?” Just itchin’ for an excuse to make cute, tiny, hand-held pies? Got you covered on all counts, my friend.

These are something we usually make for BKTK—our most glorious yearly Brooklyn-based Thanksgiving feast, whereupon no travel out of NYC is allowed—but these guys will wow just as well this holiday season.

Here’s what you need—

For the Filling:
• 1 medium Butternut Squash
• half a Sweet Onion (like Maya Gold or Vidalia, when it’s in season)
• 5 cloves of Garlic
• .25 cup of Vegetable Broth (fresh, if possible…we’ll write that up some time in the new year)
• Olive Oil
• 1 teaspoon of Smoked Paprika
• Salt + Pepper, to taste

For the Pastry Crust:
•2.5 cups All-Purpose Flour
• 1 teaspoon Salt
• 2 sticks (1 cup) Vegan Margarine (we like Willow Run), very cold
• .25 cup (or so) Ice Water

So, first thing’s first—before you make this, you should know that it’s best to have the dough sit covered and refrigerated overnight. If that’s not possible, at least give it an hour to sit.

One key to a good pastry dough is to add the ice water little by little—too much and the gluten will activate too much, making a dense, chewy crust; too little and it’s a powdery mess that won’t bake. But don’t fret, once you get it down, you’ll be a pro. It’s honestly not that hard. The other key is to touch the margarine with your hands as little as possible, keeping it from melting until the dough’s being baked.

This pie crust recipe’s based on Martha Stewart’s Pate Brisee. She uses a food processor to make it, which you’re more than welcome to do, but we always do it by hand. When you’re ready to go, sift the flour into a large mixing bowl along with the salt. Now take one stick of margarine out, place it on a cutting board, unwrapped, and begin cutting the stick into small squares. We usually quarter it down the length and then chop it across the width into smaller squares. Again, touch the margarine as little as possible, using the knife and maybe a fork or other knife to scrape the pieces into the flour mixture. Scrape off only enough at a time that they can rest int he flour mixture without touching other margarine pieces and sticking together. When you’ve reached capacity for the surface area, lightly mix the margarine pieces in so they’re coated with flour and cut more pieces in and do the same. Repeat the process with the second stick of margarine. Once it’s all in, take a rubber spatula or a fork and quickly smash the pieces into smaller bits all throughout the flour mixture, creating tiny, pea-sized bits of margarine. Now begin to slowly mix in the ice water, maybe a tablespoon at a time, watching to see when the mixture begins to bind together and making sure that you’re thoroughly mixing in the moisture. Once you have a dough that starts to form a ball and doesn’t look wet but isn’t too powdery, stop with the water-adding, already. You’re done. Cover with foil or some such thing and refrigerate, ideally overnight.

On to the filling! This is hella easy. First, carefully divide the butternut squash down its length and place into an oiled baking pan. If you have a smaller baking dish, feel free to divide it down its width too. Bake at 350°F face-down until the outer skin easily punctures when you gently fork it (no jokes). It usually takes 30 to 45 minutes, depending on your particular gourdinal fortitude. Meanwhile, dice up the onion into very small pieces and then saute in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil until caramelized (10 minutes or so). Add smashed, peeled, and diced garlic and cook for five or so minutes, lowering the heat if the garlic begins to brown too much. When your squash is done, pull it out and set aside to cool. Once it’s cool, carefully peel off the skin. It should come off pretty easily if it’s been cooked enough. If you have trouble, go the other route—scrape the squash meat out. Add the squash to the onions and garlic and saute for 10 minutes, further browning the squash. Now add your spices and the vegetable broth and cook covered for 30-45 minutes, uncovering and stirring every now and then to check the consistency. You basically want to break everything down into a mashed-potato-like consistency, so feel free to smash and chunks with a fork and, if needed, cook off extra liquid uncovered.

Once you’ve got your filling cooked, you just need to set it aside or refrigerate it long enough that it’s cool to the touch. When you’re ready to make the pies (you can refrigerate the filling for a day or two, for real, and even freeze the day, as needed), pre-heat the oven to 375°F. Now, pull or cut lose a ball of dough about the size of a non-baby fist. On a clean, lightly floured surface, roll the ball into a disk that’s about a quarter of an inch thick. Place a quarter cup or so of the cooled filling on one half of the dough disk, gently folding the other side over so you form a half-moon. Seal the edges with a fork. If the dough’s not sticking to to itself well enough, add a little water between the two sides. Set aside on a cool surface and repeat until the dough and/or filling are kaput. Place the hand pies on a cooking sheet so that they’re not touching and bake them until golden, usually 30 minutes or so. If you don’t have a large enough sheet for all of them, refrigerate the ones you’re not baking until there’s room for them.

That’s it! Now go impress those holiday revelers with you hand pie prowess!

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