1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
4 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
3/4 cup granulated sugar
7 large egg yolks
Spread the brown sugar on a large plate or baking sheet, and let dry, uncovered for about 3 hours.
When its sufficiently dry, it will feel sandy.
Pass the dried brown sugar through a sieve to remove any lumps and set aside.
Heat oven to 300º F.
In a small cooking pot over medium heat, combine cream with vanilla seeds and pod, and granulated sugar.
Heat the mixture, stirring occasionally, until bubbles start to form around the edges.
Be sure not to let the cream boil.
Remove from heat, and set aside.
In large mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks.
Continue to whisk while slowly pouring the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks.
Whisk until the mixture is smooth.
Strain the mixture into a large measuring cup with spout, through a fine mesh sieve, to remove the vanilla bean pieces and any overcooked eggs.
Place nine 5 ounce ramekins on a baking pan with 1 inch sides.
Transfer the baking pan to the oven.
Fill the ramekins to the top with the custard.
(It is important to fill the molds to the top, as the custard will lose volume as it bakes).
Pour enough hot water into the baking pan to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
Bake until the custard is set and trembles slightly when shaken, about 40 minutes.
Remove the ramekins from the water bath, and place on a cooling rack for 30 minutes.
Chill for 2 hours or up to 3 days before serving.
The custards will finish setting in the refrigerator.
Just before serving, sift about 2 Tablespoons dried brown sugar over each custard.
Transfer the ramekins to a clean baking sheet.
Place the baking sheet about 4 inches from the broiler, and broil until the sugar is caramelized, about 40 seconds.
Place each Crème Brûlée on a small dessert plate, and serve immediately.
GG's note: Using a torch makes caramelizing the sugar a lot easier. That is the part I get right!