6 hours 30 minutestotal time
1 1/2 cups (355ml) heavy cream
1 1/2 cups (355ml) whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
1/4 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use half as much by volume
7 large egg yolks (98g)
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
Just-boiled water, for the water bath
Raw or granulated sugar, for topping (see note)
In a 3-quart saucepan, combine heavy cream, whole milk, vanilla bean and seeds, and salt. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat, then remove from heat, cover, and let stand 1 hour.
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 325ºF (163ºC). In a large bowl, whisk yolks with granulated sugar until smooth (do not combine the sugar and yolks until you are ready to add the dairy; if left to stand before adding the dairy, the sugar will absorb moisture from the yolks and leave behind hard, clumpy bits, something pastry chefs refer to as “burning” the yolks). Set a fine-mesh strainer over yolk mixture and pour cream mixture through; discard vanilla bean. Whisk custard base until thoroughly combined.
Set six 4-ounce ramekins in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Divide custard base evenly among the ramekins, filling them 1/4 inch from the top of the rim. (If you have a few tablespoons of extra custard, that’s okay.) Pour just-boiled—but not boiling—water (around 180º to 200ºF; 88º to 93ºC) into baking dish until it comes 2/3 of the way up the ramekins; be careful not to splash water into the ramekins as you pour. Carefully transfer baking dish to middle rack of oven and bake until custards are just set (they should jiggle slightly in the middle and register 175ºF/79ºC to 178ºF/81ºC on an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center), about 35 minutes. Remove from oven, and, using towels or silicone-coated tongs, carefully transfer ramekins to a cooling rack. Allow custards to cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Refrigerate until set, uncovered, at least 4 hours.
To finish and serve, let custards stand for 20 minutes at room temperature. Right before serving, top the surface of each custard with an even layer of raw sugar (about 2 teaspoons per ramekin), swirling the ramekins to distribute the sugar evenly. Working in a circular motion, use a butane blowtorch to pass a flame over the top of each crème brûlée, 1- to 2-inches away from the surface of the custard, until the sugar has caramelized and melted into a glossy, crackling sheet and turned golden brown (how closely and how long you should torch your custards will depend on the strength of your blowtorch; watch the sugar carefully as you pass the torch over the surface of the custard to avoid scorching your crème brûlées). Alternatively, for a broiler method, see notes.
Cool slightly for 1 to 2 minutes, then serve immediately.
6 hours 30 minutestotal time