Preheat oven to 300.

In a heavy-bottomed non-reactive saucepan, heat the cream, half and half, vanilla bean and half of the sugar (1/2 half cup) over medium heat. Allow mixture to cook for five minutes, being careful to make sure it does not boil over.

In a mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks on high speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add in the remaining half a cup of sugar. Set the mixer to low speed, and slowly add in 2 cups of the hot cream mixture. Then, using a rubber spatula, slowly blend in the remaining hot cream mixture.

Allow the mixture to settle for five minutes, and using a small ladle or large serving spoon, skim the frothy bubbles from the top of the mixture. Divide the custard into 8 (8-9 ounce) ramekins or custard cups. Place the dishes into a large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water in the roasting pan so that the water level is half of the height of the baking dishes.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the middle is set. The custard should jiggle slightly.

Remove the custard from the roasting pan and cool completely. They may be made a day in advance and refrigerated.

Twenty minutes before serving, remove the custards from the refrigerator. Divide the sugar in a thin layer over the top of each custard dish, covering it completely. To caramelize, light a propane torch and hold it so the flame just touches the surface. Start in the center, and moving the torch in a spiral pattern, cook the sugar until it becomes light brown in color. Serve immediately.

Yield: 8 servings