Prep time: 7+ hours or overnight* | Cook time: 1 hour + | Total: 8+ hours* | Makes 6
* Includes time for chilling. Start a day ahead for optimal smoothness of texture.
2 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
1 small egg
3 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons maple syrup, a lighter grade for a more delicate maple flavor and a darker grade for a richer maple flavor
5 tablespoons fine sugar
6 small ramekins
A torch to brûlée
Pour heavy cream into a saucepan and place over medium heat. While the cream is warming, cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise with a paring knife and separate the seeds by scraping the bean with the knife. Place the seeds and bean into the heating cream. Very gently heat up the cream until bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan. Remove from heat and let steep for a few minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the whole egg, egg yolks, salt, and maple syrup.
Reheat cream to almost a simmer and remove the vanilla bean.
VERY slowly pour the hot cream and vanilla mixture into the egg mixture while whisking constantly. This allows the eggs to temper gently without curdling. Continue whisking until the cream is fully incorporated into the egg mixture.
Cover and chill custard for at least 4 hours, ideally overnight, to get the smoothest, silkiest crème brûlée. You want it to be completely cold before baking.
When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 300°F. If your oven has a convection feature, use it. While the oven is preheating, bring a kettle of water to boil. It just needs to be hot for the water bath. Line a shallow baking pan or casserole dish with a kitchen towel, and place empty ramekins into the pan on the towel so they don't slide around.
Once the oven has preheated, pull the custard mixture out of the fridge and pour into each ramekin about 1/8" from the top.
Pull out the center rack in the preheated oven, and carefully place the pan with ramekins onto the rack. Gently slide it back in, and then slowly pour the boiling water into the pan, taking care not to get any water into the ramekins. Keep adding water until it comes halfway up the sides the ramekins.
Close the oven and bake until the crème brûlée reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (about an hour) Use an instant read thermometer to check the center of the custard (the sugar will cover the mark when you brûlée it). The custard will set in the fridge so don't worry if it doesn't look done.
Pull the custard from the oven and set on a cooling rack for 30 minutes. Then cover and refrigerate until completely cold, at least 2 hours (and up to 3 days) before serving. You want the crème brûlée to be cold on the bottom and warm on the top after you brûlée it for serving.
Once cooled and ready to serve, sprinkle sugar on top of the custard and flame with a torch until the sugar turns a golden brown. Serve immediately.