In a small saucepan, whisk (almost) constantly and bring cream to barely a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from heat immediately when you begin to see bubbles forming around the sides of the pan.
Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the warm cream, then add the vanilla bean pieces. Let vanilla beans stand in cream for 30 minutes.
Prepare the Custard:
Bring a teakettle or large saucepan of water to a boil.
Combine egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and beat until pale yellow and thick. Pour the vanilla and cream mixture into the egg mixture and whisk thoroughly to combine.
Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and strain the custard mixture. (I do this twice.)
Blend strained mixture with a whisk one more time. (There will still be tiny vanilla seeds in the mixture. They are supposed to be there.)
Bake the Custard
Place a paper towel on the bottom of a large baking pan. This keeps the ramekins from slipping. (The pan needs to be large enough to hold four ramekins.)
Set the ramekins on the paper towel. Fill each ramekin with equal amounts of the custard mixture.
Pour about one inch of water into the pan. It should come about halfway up the ramekins, but no more. You don’t want water to splash into your custard mixture.
Bake about 25-35 minutes, depending on the depth of your ramekins. Custards should appear set around the edges but slightly loose in the center.
Turn off the oven, open the oven door, and allow custard to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Place in the refrigerator for 2 hours to cool completely.
When custards are completely cool, sprinkle the top evenly with granulated sugar.
Using a kitchen torch, carefully brown the top to caramelize the sugar. Distributing the sugar one thin layer at a time will yield better results than putting it all on at once.
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