Pour cream and vanilla into a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Slowly bring to a simmer, stirring every few minutes for 10 to 15 minutes. Cream will be steaming but not boiling and vanilla will be fragrant. Remove from heat.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and half of the sugar (1/4 cup) until pale yellow and thick. With whisk in hand, very slowly begin adding cream to yolk mixture, whisking constantly. (If added too quickly, eggs will cook.) Continue until cream is fully incorporated.
Preheat oven to 325 F. Divide custard into 6 ramekins, about 3/4 full. (Any shallow, oven-safe dish can be used, or use one large dish, such as a pie pan.) Place ramekins in a tall roasting pan or casserole dish. Slowly add enough hot water to the bottom of the pan until it comes about halfway up the sides of the ramekins, making sure they don’t begin to float.
Bake until barely set (top will have a thin film but underneath it will jiggle a little bit), about 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the depth of the dishes.
Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for 2 hours. Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of sugar on top of each custard and caramelize with a kitchen torch (or under the broil setting in the oven), being careful not to burn.
Per serving: 247 calories, 19 grams fat (11 grams saturated fat), 230 milligrams cholesterol, 22 milligrams sodium, 18 grams total carbohydrates, 0 grams fiber, 3 grams protein.