I am the vanilla bean queen! At one time I was importing them by the kilo from Australia. Drought conditions, coupled with soaring prices due to limited availability, have curtailed my import activities as of late. –Keely
Preheat oven to 300º
Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the tiny black seeds. Combine cream, vanillas seeds and vanilla pod halves in a heavy saucepan. Bring to boil. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside to steep for 15 minutes. Remove vanilla pods.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine vanilla sugar and egg yolks and whisk until well blended. Add the vanilla cream and mix well.
Place round oven-proof baking dishes (ramekins) in a roasting pan. Pour cream mixture into the dishes. Add enough boiling water to the pan to reach halfway up the sides of the baking dishes.
Bake just until the mixture is just set in the center, but still trembling (about 30 minutes). Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Sprinkle sugar on top, and caramelize with a baking torch.
This recipe was written for 6 large ramekins. I use very small ramekins (the recipe fills about 16-18 of them), so I usually bake mine for about 20 minutes.
Combine 4 vanilla beans split in two and their seeds with 4 cups of sugar. Allow to sit for several weeks to flavor the sugar.