Yield 6 servings
1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
½ cup sugar, for the egg yolks
6 large egg yolks
2 quarts hot water for a water bath (bain marie)
¼ to ½ cup Superfine Sugar (aka Caster Sugar) for the ‘crowning glory’, the hardened caramel top
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually.
Pour the liquid into 6 (7 to 8-ounce) ramekins.
Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake just until the crème brûlée is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes if you are using deep sided ramekins. Shallow ramekins only take 30-35 minutes.
Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
Remove the crème brûlée from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to caramelizing the sugar on top. Crème brûlée is best served at room temperature.
Using the superfine or caster sugar, sprinkle a thin even layer over the top of each custard. Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a hardened top. Notes: wide shallow ramekins require about 1 tablespoon of superfine sugar while for the taller deeper ramekins use about 2 teaspoons.
Allow the crème brûlée to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.