Easy chicken puffs, coffee cake made from store-bought ingredients

April 6, 2015 at 9:12 AM ET

Dessert queen Christina Tosi, best known for imaginative, nostalgia-inducing treats like Crack Pie, Compost Cookies and Cereal Milk Soft Serve at famed bakery Momofuku Milk Bar, shares recipes we can do at home — no pastry chef credentials needed. Turn store-bought crescent rolls into some crowd-pleasing chicken puffs and boxed cake mix into a decadent coffee cake with these recipes from her cookbook, "Milk Bar Life."

Chicken Puffs

Momofuku's Christina Tosi's chicken puffs
Samantha Okazaki / TODAY

While I like digging through cookbook collections, I live for rifling through people's recipe card indexes. That is how I discovered this gem in my Aunt Sylvia's stash. Somehow this light and airy lunchtime favorite had fallen off my family's greatest hits list, and I can't for the life of me figure out why. I include it here to restore it to its lost glory.

  • Pam or other nonstick baking spray
  • 3⁄4 cup (about 1⁄2 pound) chopped cooked chicken
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1⁄4 cup diced onion, scallions, or shallots
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (8-ounce) tube refrigerated crescent rolls
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a baking sheet with the baking spray.

2. Mix the chicken, cream cheese, onion, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.

3. Unroll the crescent rolls and lay out on the counter. Divide the chicken mixture evenly among the 8 pieces of dough, spooning it into little clumps in the center of each unfurled roll. Wrap the dough up around the chicken, pinching the sides to seal the seams. Roll the puffs in the bread crumbs and put on the prepared baking sheet.

4. Bake the puffs for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve hot out of the oven.

Cake Mix Coffee Cake

Cake mix coffee cake with peaches.
Samantha Okazaki / TODAY
Cake mix coffee cake with peaches.

Serves 10 to 12

When I was a teen in Springfield, Virginia, the hot hotness in the Washington Post food section was a column called "The Cake Mix Doctor," an awesome guide to churching up cake mixes with select ingredients to create new-flavored cakes or cookies. Ground ginger! Ground cinnamon! Pecans! White chocolate chips! It was all the rage, at least in my mom's house. When I worked as head baker on Star Island, off the coast of New Hampshire, Sarah Wicker, the head chef, taught me the power of combining sour cream and cake mix for instant, delicious coffee cake. There are two decisions you'll need to make before whipping up this coffee cake. First, choose the fruit you want to use. Then decide if you want that fruit canned, frozen, or in the form of pie filling.

Cake mix coffee cake with blueberries
Samantha Okazaki / TODAY
Cake mix coffee cake with blueberries.

If you go with pie filling, you will spread it through the middle of the cake for a stunning layered effect. The other two options have you mixing the fruit into the batter, for a more uniform fruit-to-cake ratio. Any of the three variations will give you a scrumptious way to start, or end, the day. Serve it with a good cup of coffee, and get yourself in gear.

The cake

  • 1 (15.25-ounce) box yellow cake mix
  • 1 (16-ounce) tub sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • Unsalted butter for the baking dish

The filling

  • 1 (14-ounce) can fruit, drained (I love peaches) or 1 (12-ounce) bag frozen fruit, defrosted or 1 (21-ounce) can fruit filling (such as cherry or blueberry)

The topping

  • 1⁄2 cup yellow cake mix reserved from above
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch square baking dish.

2. Prep the cake: Measure out 1⁄2 cup of the cake mix and set aside for the topping. Combine the remaining cake mix, the sour cream, and egg in a medium bowl and beat until just smooth, with no lumps remaining.

3. If you are using canned or frozen fruit, mix it into the batter and pour the mixture into the prepared pan. If you are using fruit filling, pour half the batter into the prepared pan, cover with the fruit filling, and top with the remaining batter.

4. Prep the topping: Toss the reserved 1⁄2 cup cake mix with the cinnamon and butter in a small bowl until the mixture is crumbly and streusel-like. Sprinkle it evenly over the cake batter.

5. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a thin knife plunged into the center comes out clean or with a few traces of fruit filling. Cool completely in the pan before cutting into 2-inch squares and serving.

6. Cover leftovers with plastic and refrigerate for up to 1 week. If you have time, throw slices in the toaster oven to make something exciting and new for breakfast.