In a small saucepan, bring cream and vanilla bean and scrapings to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and let stand for 15 minutes.
Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Discard any solids and the vanilla bean pod.
In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt. Slowly whisk the hot cream into the egg yolks. Divide custard among 6 (6-ounce) ramekins.
Pour very hot water into the baking dish until it fills the dish by about a third. Carefully place the filled ramekins in the dish.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the custard edges are set but the center wobbles slightly. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Chill for several hours or up to 2 days.
When ready to serve, sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar over the top of each chilled custard. Using a blow torch, caramelize the sugar until dark amber and bubbling. Serve immediately.
Be very careful when tempering the eggs. Increase the temperature of the egg yolks by adding the heavy cream mixture slowly. The slower, the better. If you add too much of the heated mixture to the yolks quickly, the yolks will curdle, and you’ll end up with scrambled eggs.
The sugar needs to completely cover the custard before you torch the top. If there is custard exposed, then it might curdle when exposed to heat. Give the ramekin a gentle shake to help the sugar evenly distribute.
Once the sugar on the crème brûlée has caramelized, serve immediately. If left out for too long, the moisture of the custard will cause the sugar topping to soften, and you will not get that satisfying crack.
You can substitute 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract for the whole vanilla bean if desired. Alternatively, you can use vanilla bean paste.
Typically, recipes call for pouring hot water into the baking dish after placing the filled ramekins in it. I find the hot water can splash into the custard, creating a soupy mess, so I like to fill the dish first and then add the ramekins. It’s up to you which way you prefer to prepare the ramekins.
If there is foam on top of the ramekins after pouring the custard filling, skim it off. The foam will yield a bumpy surface after baking.
If there is moisture on the top of the custard after chilling, be sure to blot dry with a paper towel before topping with sugar.
Feel free to use a shallow ramekin to increase the caramelized topping to custard ratio. Keep in mind that a shallow dish will require less baking time.