['1 quart heavy cream', '1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise', '3/4 cup plus 4 tablespoons sugar, divided', '6 large egg yolks, room temperature', 'Pinch of kosher salt', 'Whipped cream (for serving; optional)', 'Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon', 'for serving; optional)']
Preheat oven to 300°F. Place cream in a medium saucepan; scrape in seeds from vanilla bean and add pod. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat; set aside.
Bring 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil, swirling pan occasionally and brushing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush, until mixture turns a deep amber color, about 4 minutes; remove caramel from heat.
Remove vanilla pod from cream; discard. Slowly add cream to caramel (mixture will bubble vigorously). Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth, about 2 minutes.
Whisk egg yolks, kosher salt, and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a large bowl. Slowly stream in caramel cream, whisking constantly. Divide custard among eight 6-ounce ramekins or ovenproof bowls and place in a kitchen towel–lined large baking dish or roasting pan. Fill pan with water to come halfway up sides of ramekins. Bake until custard is just set but still jiggly in the center, 60–70 minutes. Remove ramekins from baking dish; place on a wire rack and let cool. Chill custards, uncovered, at least 3 hours.
Top custards with whipped cream and sprinkle with sea salt.
DO AHEAD: Custards can be made 2 days ahead; cover and keep chilled.
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