6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups heavy cream
fresh vanilla bean, split in half, or 1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients. Cook over a double boiler on high heat until mixture starts to thicken. If using a fresh vanilla bean, remove bean halves, and scrape the insides back into the mixture. Pour equal parts of mixture into 4 round ramekins that are 6 inches wide and 1 inch deep. Place ramekins on a large, 2-inch deep pan. Place pan in oven. Pour boiling water into pan until water level reaches halfway up the side of ramekins. Be careful no to allow water to splash into the creme brûlées. The water bath will ensure that the creme brûlées cook evenly. Cook for 45 minutes. Remove ramekins from water bath. Refrigerate for four hours or overnight. Top with a thin layer of sugar, and put ramekins under a broiler until sugar is brown and caramelized. Watch closely to prevent burning. Serving recommendation: with strong black coffee or an ice wine. Serves 4.