Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven.
Place 4 - one cup (240 ml)
Brûlée dishes or ramekins in a roasting pan.
In a saucepan,
over medium-high heat, bring the cream and the vanilla bean and seeds to the
scalding point (the cream just begins to bubble around the edges). Remove from heat and remove
the vanilla bean.
Meanwhile in a
heatproof bowl beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale
(about 1-2 minutes). (You can do this with a wire whisk or hand mixer.) Gradually pour the scalding
cream into the egg yolk mixture, making sure you keep whisking constantly so the
eggs don't curdle. (Stir in vanilla extract, if using.) Strain into a large
measuring cup or pitcher and then evenly pour the custard into the ramekins.
water bath (bain marie) by
carefully pouring enough hot or boiling water so that the water comes halfway up the sides
of the ramekins. Bake for about 30 - 40 minutes (baking time can vary depending on
size of ramekins and temperature of water) or just until the custards are set (a slight wobble is
the custards from the water bath and cool to room temperature on a wire rack
(about one hour). Refrigerate (uncovered) for at least 4 hours or
until cold and firm. At this point they can be stored (covered) in the refrigerator for
To serve, remove
the custards from the refrigerator. Sprinkle an even, not too thick, layer
(about 1 tablespoon (15 grams)) of superfine sugar over the custards. Using a
hand held kitchen torch, or under a very hot preheated broiler, caramelize the
sugar until it is golden brown and bubbly. If using a torch, place it about 2 inches (5 cm), at an
angle, over the custard and move the torch around until the sugar melts and
caramelizes. Let sit a few minutes so the sugar can harden then serve.