- Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F).
- With the tip of a knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.
- In a saucepan, slowly heat the cream and vanilla seeds and pod, without boiling, for about 5 minutes. (This will release the vanilla’s flavour.) If using vanilla extract, add it to the warmed cream.
- In a bowl, beat the egg yolks and the sugar. Whisk in the hot cream. Pour into three 150-ml (2/3-cup) ramekins.
- Place the ramekins in a baking dish and add enough hot water to reach 3/4 of the way up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for about 30 minutes. The water should barely simmer, never boil. Reduce the oven temperature and add water as needed.
- Cool to room temperature then refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Just before serving, scoop a small amount of the custard into attractive soup spoons. Sprinkle with sugar and caramelize quickly with a blowtorch. Serve immediately with coffee.