4 cups chilled heavy cream
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, cut in half and split lengthwise
12 large egg yolks
8-12 teaspoons turbinado or Demarara sugar
- Adjust oven rack to lower-middle portion and heat oven to 300 degrees.
- Combine 2 cups cream, sugar, and salt in medium saucepan; with paring knife, scrape seeds from vanilla bean into pan, submerge pod in cream, and bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to ensure that sugar dissolves. Take pan off heat and let steep 15 minutes to infuse flavors.
- Meanwhile, place kitchen towel in bottom of large baking dish or roasting pan and arrange eight 4- to 5-oz ramekins (or shallow fluted dishes) on towel. Bring kettle or large saucepan of water to boil over high heat.
- After cream has steeped, stir in remaining 2 cups cream to cool down mixture. Whisk yolks in large bowl until broken up and combined. Whisk about 1 cup cream mixture into yolks until loosened and combined; repeat with another 1 cup cream. Add remaining cream and whisk until evenly colored and thoroughly combined. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into 2-quart measuring cup or pitcher (or clean medium bowl); discard solids in strainer. Pour or ladle mixture into ramekins, dividing it evenly among them.
- Carefully place baking dish with ramekins on oven rack, pour boiling water into dish, taking care not to splash water into ramekins, until water reaches 2/3 the height of ramekins. Bake until centers of custards are just barely set and are no longer sloshy and digital instant-read thermometer inserted into centers registers 170-175 degrees, 30 to 35 minutes (25-30 minutes for shallow fluted dish). Begin checking temperature about 5 minutes before recommended time.
- Transfer ramekins to wire rack; cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. Set ramekins on rimmed baking sheet, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours or up to 4 days.
- Uncover ramekins; if condensation has collected on custards, place paper towel on surface to soak up moisture. Sprinkle each with about 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar; tilt and tap ramekin for even coverage. Ignite torch and caramelize sugar. Refrigerate ramekins, uncovered, to re-chill, 30-45 minutes (but no longer); serve.
Recipe from Cooks Illustrated, November & December, 2001, Page 23.