Combine the water, cinnamon sticks, anise seed, and sugar in a small pot. Bring to a simmer over low heat and simmer softly for 30 min. Strain. Reserve 1 1/3 cups of the syrup and set aside.
Pour the rest of the sweet potato syrup in a small pot and add the sweet potato. Bring to a very low simmer, cover, and let cook for 45 min. (It’s going to seem like it’s not enough liquid to cook the sweet potatoes, but we’re basically going to steam them in the syrup. As they cook they will release liquid as well.) Drain and mash with a fork.
While the sweet potatoes are cooking, in a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder, sugar, and cinnamon. Add the melted coconut oil and mix well.
Add sweet potato syrup and mix.
Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes or until the dough has come together is elastic and smooth, but not sticky. Let it rest for 45 min.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Divide the dough into 16 equal portions and roll them into balls ( 2 oz. each). On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough 1/4 inch thick.
Place 1 tbsp. of the filling in the middle of the dough round. Fold the dough over to enclose the filling, and crimp the edges with a fork to seal or seal them decoratively as the Argentinians do. Pierce each empanada three times with a fork near the crimped edge.
In a small bowl combine the almond milk and maple syrup. Use this to brush the empanadas and bake for 35 – 40 min. or until the empanadas are golden brown on the bottom.