By Gini Rainey
For those of you who might not know, I’m part owner of an independent automobile dealership that just happens to be in an old City of Tyler fire station. Built in the mid-40s, it was replaced with a newer station forty years later and pretty much sat around waiting for someone to figure out what to do with it next. When Jim Lozier saw the building, he had the vision to re-model and restore the building into a business which is where I have spent the majority of my waking hours the past 22 years. While Jim sold the business to me and my business partner over ten years ago, he still drops by to visit and catch up at least once a month. A couple of weeks ago he stopped by to take me to lunch and brought me a surprise.
Knowing of my huge interest in cookbooks and of course the fire station link, when he spotted “San Francisco Firehouse Favorites: Great Recipes by the Bay City’s Famous Firemen Chefs,” he picked it up to give me. Co-authored by Tony Calvello, Bruce Harlow, Georgia Sackett, and Shirley Sarvis, this book was published in 1965 by Bonanza Books and not only has some great sounding recipes, but also has some pretty cool black and white photos of firemen in action.
With contributions from San Francisco firemen, this book is loaded with hearty recipes that are easy for the men to cook at the station while helping maintain the energy and gusto that firemen need to draw on while responding to emergency situations. True to the legend of a fixed budget of a dollar a day per man, this book is a prime example of how the city’s fire department was able to serve meals and dishes of great style and ingenuity.
While I could share one or more of the heartier, main course recipes, the one that popped out at me more than any other was for Mocha Éclairs. I love making éclairs. There is just something so cool about how the eggs, butter, and flour incorporate with each other when making the pâte à choux that is the pastry basis for the éclairs. If you’ve never made them, this will be a great recipe to try. To make the pastry, combine 1 cup water, ½ cup butter, and ¼ teaspoon salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add 1 cup flour all at once and beat over a low heat until the mixture leaves the side of the pan and begins to form a ball. Remove from heat and continue beating to cool mixture down slightly – about 2 minutes. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition, until the batter has a slight sheen.
Spoon the pastry onto a greased baking sheet, shaping into fingers about 1 inch wide and 4 inches long, with about 2 inches between to allow for expansion. Bake in a 425° oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° and bake for another 35-40 minutes, or more, until golden brown. Remove to a wire rack to cool, and then split open and remove any filaments of soft dough. Then fill with Coffee Cream Filling: Beat 2 cups heavy cream with 6 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons very strong coffee, and 2 teaspoons vanilla until stiff. Then top with Mocha Frosting: Stir together 2 tablespoons each melted butter, very strong coffee, and powdered cocoa. Gradually add about 1 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar, beating until smooth and of spreading consistency. Chill for 2 hours before serving. This should make 10-12 really yummy éclairs.