1 vanilla pod (bean)
1 litre (4 cups) double (heavy) cream
6 egg yolks
90g (1/2 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
30ml (2 tsp) almond or orange liqueur (optional)
75g (6 Tbsp) soft light brown sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 150c/300F/Gas 2. Place six 120ml (1/2 cup) ramekins, custard cups or small ovenproof dishes in a roasting pan and set aside.
2. With a small sharp knife, split the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape the black seeds into a medium pan. Add the cream and bring just to the boil over a medium heat, stirring. Remove from the heat and cover. Set aside for 15-20 minutes.
3. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks, caster sugar and liqueur, if using, until well blended. Whisk in the hot cream and strain into a large jug (pitcher). Divide the custard among the dishes.
4. Pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the dishes. Cover the pan with foil and bake for about 30 minutes until the custards are just set. Remove from the pan and leave to cool. Return to the dry roasting pan and chill.
5. Preheat the grill (broiler). Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the surface of each custard and grill (broil) for 30-60 seconds until the sugar melts and caramelizes. Do not let the sugar burn or allow the custard to curdle.
6. Place in the refrigerator to set the crust and chill completely before serving.