- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Before doing so, place a large flat pan with sides on the middle shelf and fill it with ¾–1 inch (2–2.5 cm) of water.
- In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly mix the sugar, salt, vanilla, and egg yolks.
- In a saucepan, heat the cream until it is piping hot (stir constantly), but be careful to not let it boil.
- Slowly (about 1 cup a time) pour the hot cream into the mixing bowl with the other ingredients, while whisking briskly. If you add the cream too quickly, it will cook the eggs.
- After all the ingredients are well-mixed, pour the mixture into eight individual ramekins.
- Place the ramekins in the water bath in the oven, and bake until set (like Jell-O). The time depends on the size and depth of the dishes you use, as well as the material of which they're made. Usually, the time ranges from 25 to 50 minutes.
- Remove the dishes from the oven and allow them to cool. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready for serving.
- When ready to serve, remove the ramekins from the refrigerator and place them on a fire-proof surface. Sprinkle a moderately thin coating of granulated white sugar on the top of each custard.
- Using a propane blow-torch, carefully melt the sugar topping so that it forms a solid caramel sheet. Take care to not burn the sugar or the custard beneath it. It is very important that this step not be done with an oven, toaster oven, broiler rack, etc., as doing so will invariably cause the custard to overheat and dry out or burn before the sugar layer on top is properly melted.
Notes, tips, and variations
- An alternate method for caramelizing the top sugar layer is to pour a very thin layer of liqueur on top and set it alight (essentially a flambé).