1 2/3 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
3 large yolks
1 large egg
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons water
Whipped cream, for serving (optional)
- make the custard In a small saucepan, combine the cream, milk and vanilla bean and seeds. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat, then cover and remove from the heat. Let stand for 10 minutes. Remove the bean.
- make the custard Preheat the oven to 300°. Fill a large bowl with ice water. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the egg, sugar and salt. Slowly whisk in the cream mixture. Set the bowl in the ice bath and let stand, stirring the custard occasionally, until chilled, about 20 minutes.
- meanwhile, make the caramel Arrange six 4-ounce ramekins in a large baking dish. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and the 1/4 cup of water and bring to a simmer. Cook over moderate heat, washing down the side of the pan with a wet pastry brush, until a light amber caramel forms, 15 minutes. Carefully stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons of water and simmer until the caramel is dissolved. Pour the caramel into the ramekins, swirling to coat the bottoms evenly. Let the caramel cool for 15 minutes.
- meanwhile, make the caramel Fill the ramekins with the chilled custard. Carefully pour enough hot water into the baking dish to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes, until the custards are almost set but still slightly jiggly in the center. Remove the foil and let the custards cool to room temperature in the water in the pan, 30 minutes. Wrap the ramekins in plastic and refrigerate until the custards are thoroughly chilled, at least 6 hours or overnight.
- meanwhile, make the caramel Freeze the chilled crème caramels for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- meanwhile, make the caramel Thirty minutes before serving, take the crème caramels out and let stand at room temperature until just slightly frozen in the center. Run a thin knife around the crème caramels and invert them onto plates. Serve with whipped cream.
The crème caramels can be frozen for up to 1 week.