The perfect flan
• 1 3/4 cups whipping cream
• 1 cup milk (do not use low-fat or nonfat)
• Pinch of salt
• 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
• 1 cup sugar
• 1/3 cup water
• 3 large eggs
• 2 large yolks
• 7 tablespoons sugar
1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Combine cream, milk and salt in heavy medium saucepan. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into cream mixture; add bean. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and let steep 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, combine 1 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water in another heavy medium saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and cook without stirring until syrup turns deep amber, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan occasionally, about 10 minutes. Quickly pour caramel into six 3/4-cup ramekins or custard cups. Using oven mitts as aid, immediately tilt each ramekin to coat sides. Set ramekins into 13x9x2-inch baking pan.
3. Whisk eggs, egg yolks and 7 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl just until blended. Gradually and gently whisk cream mixture into egg mixture without creating lots of foam. Pour custard through small sieve into prepared ramekins, dividing evenly (mixture will fill ramekins). Pour enough hot water into baking pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins.
4. Bake until centers of flans are gently set, about 40 minutes. Transfer flans to rack and cool. Chill until cold, about 2 hours. Cover and chill overnight. (Can be made 2 days ahead.)
5. To serve, run small sharp knife around flan to loosen. Turn over onto plate. Shake gently to release flan. Carefully lift off ramekin allowing caramel syrup to run over flan. Repeat with remaining flans and serve.