As far as I'm concerned, here is the best Creme Brulee in the world - and it's very easy...especially if you have a 'torch' - I hate trying to 'burn' it under a broiler! This is a Cook's Illustrated recipe from a number of years ago. Enjoy - if you try it!
4 c chilled heavy cream
2/3 c granulated sugar
1 Pinch salt
1 vanilla bean -- halved lengthwise
12 lg egg yolks
8 tsp Turbinado or Demerara sugar -- (8 to 12)
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position & heat oven to 300°.
Combine 2 cups cream, sugar, & salt in med. saucepan; with paring knife, scrape seeds from vanilla bean into pan, submerge pod in cream, & bring mixture to boil over med. heat, stirring occasionally to ensure that sugar dissolves. Take pan off heat & let steep 15 min to infuse flavors.
Meanwhile, place kitchen towel in bottom of large baking dish or roasting pan & arrange eight 4- to 5-oz. ramekins (or shallow fluted dishes) on towel.
After cream has steeped, stir in remaining 2 cups cream to cool down mixture. Whisk yolks in large bowl till broken up & combined. Whisk ~1 cup cream mixture into yolks till loosened & combined; repeat w/another 1 cup cream. Add remaining cream & whisk till evenly colored & thoroughly combined. Strain thru fine-mesh strainer into 2-qt. measure cup or pitcher (or clean medium bowl); discard solids in strainer. Pour or ladle mixture into ramekins, dividing it evenly among them.
Carefully place baking dish w/ramekins on oven rack; pour hot water into dish, taking care not to splash water into ramekins, till water reaches 2/3 height of ramekins. Bake till centers of custards are just barely set and are no longer sloshy & temp. probe read 170° to 175° degrees, 30-35 min. (25-30 min. for shallow fluted dishes). Begin checking temp. ~5 min. before recommended time.
Transfer ramekins to wire rack; cool to room temp, ~ 2 hours. Set ramekins on rimmed baking sheet, cover tightly with plastic wrap, & refrigerate till cold, at least 4 hours or up to 4 days.
Uncover ramekins; if condensation has collected on custards, place paper towel on surface to soak up moisture. Sprinkle each with ~ 1 tsp. turbinado sugar (1 1/2 tsp. for shallow fluted dishes); tilt and tap ramekins for even coverage. Ignite torch & caramelize sugar. Refrigerate ramekins, uncovered, to re-chill, 30-45 min. (but no longer); serve.
Serving Ideas : Misc. notes from Cook's Illus. article: Separate the egg and whisk the yolks after the cream has finished steeping; if left to sit, the surface of the yolks will dry & form a film. The best way to judge doneness is w/a digital instant-read thermometer, but if baked in shallow fluted dishes, they will not be deep enuf for accurate reading.
NOTES : This recipe easily halves to make 4 brûlées.