"From Ming Tsai. Custard/caramel, how can that be bad?"
vanilla bean, preferably Tahitian
pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups
heavy cream, cold
1. Preheat the oven to 325 f. In a small saucepan, combine the half-and-half, vanilla bean, and vanilla extract. Heat over medium heat just until scalded; do not allow the mixture to boil.
2. Fill a large bowl with water and add ice. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the egg, egg yolks, and granulated sugar and mix. Gradually stir in the scalded half-and-half mixture and place the smaller bowl in the bowl of ice water to cool completely. Stir in the heavy cream and divide among eight 4-ounce ramekins. Place in a baking dish just large enough to hold them and add enough hot water to the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake until the custard is set but still quivers in the center, about 35 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the water and refrigerate to cool completely.
3. Preheat the broiler, if using. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the sugar on top of each custard, spread over the surface, and tap out any excess. Place the ramekins on a broiling tray and broil until the top is melted and caramelized, about 30 seconds. Watch carefully; the sugar can burn easily. If using a torch pass the flame about 2 inches over the surface of the custards until the sugar is completely caramelized. Serve while still warm.
Tip: To caramelize the sugar coating, use either a broiler or propane torch. Working with the latter may seem scary, but torches are easily handled and are beautifully efficient. Look for a small version, often called a kitchen torch. If using a torch, replace the superfine sugar. Raw sugar caramelizes more successfully under a torch flame.