for 6 ramekins | for 4 | for 2
4 c heavy cream | 2-2/3 c | 1-1/3 c
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped | 2/3 | 1/3
1/2 c vanilla sugar | 5 T + 1 tsp | 2 T + 2 tsp
6 large egg yolks | 4 | 2
2 quarts hot water
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. 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 and reserve for another use.
In a medium bowl, whisk together half the sugar and 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 creme brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan. If you have a brulee torch, sprinkle the brulee evenly with the remaining vanilla sugar and caramelize with the torch. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
Substitutions: When I have not had a vanilla bean, I have used 2 tsp vanilla extract whisked in with the eggs and sugar. To make 4 ramekins, use 1-1/4 tsp vanilla; to make 2 ramekins, use 3/4 tsp vanilla. I have also made this with 3 whole eggs instead of 6 egg yolks when I have been up to my eyeballs in egg whites already and not wanting to store any more. You could conceivably use 2 eggs for 4 ramekins and 1 egg for 2.