It wasn't easy. Taste is so subjective that getting 10 people to agree on exactly how good a specific dish is becomes almost impossible. However, The Times' Food staff once again has managed to remember, discuss, argue about and finally decide on the 12 best recipes we published during the past year. Our personal tastes are diverse. Some love sweets, others are relatively indifferent to them. Foods that are rich and most unfashionably fattening have tremendous appeal to some, yet others on the staff would avoid these at all costs. In other words, we're just like you. We have certain foods we like, others we don't. Thus, it's hardly surprising that in compiling our list of the 12 best, there was no one recipe that made everyone's list. But the following recipes, certainly an eclectic group, earned the most votes.
1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs, separated
1/4 cup goat milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts, optional
1 (10-ounce) package frozen raspberries, packed in sugar syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, or less
Cream together butter and 1/2 cup sugar. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Beat egg yolks with goat milk. Add flour and egg mixtures alternately to creamed mixture. Pour batter into 2 greased 8-inch round layer cake pans. Spread evenly to edge, forming thin layer. Beat egg whites until stiff. Gradually beat in 3/4 cup sugar. Blend in vanilla. Add nuts.
Spread meringue on batter in layer pans to within 1 inch of edge. Bake at 350 degrees 25 minutes or until wood pick comes out clean. Remove from oven. Cool on racks 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely. Drain syrup from raspberries into saucepan. Blend in cornstarch. Cook and stir until thickened. Add berries.
To serve, cut each layer into 4 to 6 wedges. Top each wedge with spoonful of whipped cream. Drizzle some of raspberry sauce over cream. Makes 8 to 12 servings.
385 NORTH'S TATAKI OF BEEF
1 1/2 teaspoons grated ginger root
3/4 teaspoon grated garlic
1/2 cup dark soy sauce
1 bunch chiso (ooba leaf), julienned
1/4 cup lime juice
14 ounces culotte or New York steak
2 tablespoons peanut oil
Green onions, sliced
Combine ginger, garlic, soy sauce, chiso and lime juice in flat glass dish just large enough to hold steak. Set aside. Trim steak to remove excess fat and season to taste with pepper on top and bottom. Sear beef quickly in hot peanut oil on all sides over high heat. Cook to rare stage only.
Place in dish with marinade and turn to coat well. Refrigerate, turning occasionally, at least 1 hour. Steak should be very cold and firm before slicing.
To serve, thinly slice diagonally. Sprinkle steak slices with thinly sliced green onions cut on bias and spoon small amount of marinade over, or serve on bed of julienned carrots, Chinese pea pods, or other thinly sliced vegetable, if desired. Makes 4 servings.
Note: Chiso or ooba leaf is available in Oriental markets.
CAMELIONS' CREME BRULEE
7 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 cups whipping cream
1/2 vanilla bean
3/4 to 1 cup brown sugar, packed
Mix egg yolks and granulated sugar. Place cream and salt in heavy saucepan. Slice vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out inner portion and add scrapings to cream mixture. Heat to scalding. Gradually beat cream into egg yolk mixture, then strain through fine sieve. Pour into 6 to 8 (4-ounce) souffle cups. Cover with foil, place in pan of hot water and bake at 350 degrees 30 to 40 minutes, until set.
Remove foil. Top each with 2 tablespoons brown sugar and place under broiler until sugar is melted and caramelized. If desired, dry brown sugar slightly by spreading out in thin layer on platter, then grind to consistency of powdered sugar in food processor. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
FROM SCRATCH TUNNEL OF FUDGE CAKE
1 3/4 cups butter or margarine, softened
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 cups powdered sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups chopped walnuts
Beat butter and granulated sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add powdered sugar, blending well. By hand, stir in flour, cocoa and walnuts until well blended.
Spoon batter into greased and floured 12-cup bundt pan or 10-inch angel-food tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees 58 to 62 minutes. Cool upright in pan on cooling rack 1 hour. Invert onto serving plate. Cool completely. Spoon Glaze over top of cake, allowing some to run down sides. Makes 16 servings.
Note: Nuts are essential for success of recipe. Since cake has soft tunnel of fudge, ordinary doneness test cannot be used. Accurate oven temperature and baking time are critical. In altitudes above 3,500 feet, increase flour to 2 1/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons.
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons milk
Combine sugar, cocoa and milk in small bowl until well blended. Store tightly covered.
2/3 cup butter