2 ½ cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
8 egg yolks
3 generous tablespoons granulated sugar
Approx. 6 tablespoons Demerara or granulated brown sugar
Put a pie dish of about 8 inches in diameter in the freezer for at least 20
minutes. Half-fill the sink with cold water. This is just a precaution in case
the custard looks as if it's about to split, in which case you should plunge the
pan into the water and whisk the custard. I'm not saying it will -- with so many
egg yolks in the rich cream, it thickens quickly and easily enough -- but I
always feel better if I've done this.
Put the cream and vanilla bean into a saucepan and bring to the boiling point,
but do not let boil. Beat the eggs and sugar together in a bowl, and, still
beating, pour the flavored cream over it, bean and all. Rinse and dry the pan
and pour the custard mix back in. Cook over medium heat (or low, if you're
scared) until the custard thickens, whisking almost constantly: about 10 to 12
minutes should do it. You do want this to be a good, voluptuous crème, so don't
err on the side of runny caution. Remember, you've got your sinkful of cold
water to plunge the pan into should it really look as if it's about to split.
When the cream's thick enough, take out the vanilla bean, retrieve the pie dish
and pour this crème into the severely chilled container. Leave to cool, then put
in the refrigerator till truly cold. Sprinkle with Demerara sugar, spoonful by
spoonful, and burn with a blowtorch till you have a blistered tortoiseshell
covering on top.