Burnt Caramel Pudding
['2 cups heavy cream', '1/2 vanilla bean', '1/2 cup sugar', '3 large egg yolks, at room temperature', 'Fine sea salt', 'Whipped cream for serving']
1. Heat the oven to 300°F.
2. Pour the cream into a small saucepan. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the cream; toss the scraped pod in there too. Turn the heat to low to gently warm the cream.
3. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Pour the remaining sugar and the 1 1/2 tablespoons of water into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, set over medium heat, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Then crank the heat to high and let the liquid bubble away—don't stir, just swirl the pan occasionally—until it turns dark amber. This takes about 4 minutes, but watch closely, because it happens fast. Reduce the heat to medium.
4. Moving quickly, fish the vanilla pod out of the cream (rinse it and save for another use) and slowly stir the warm cream into the caramel. Once it comes to a boil (this will happen fast), remove from the heat and let the mixture cool for about 10 minutes.
5. Whisk the egg yolks with the reserved sugar and a pinch of sea salt in a medium bowl. Whisk a little of the cream-caramel mixture into the egg yolks, then gradually whisk in the rest until it's all incorporated.
6. Strain the mixture into a pitcher or large measuring cup and pour it into four 6-ounce ramekins (see Tips and Techniques). Place the ramekins in a shallow baking pan filled halfway with cold water. If you like your caramel a bit salty, like me, sprinkle a few grains of sea salt on top of each pudding. Cook for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, until just set.
7. Chill the puddings for at least 3 hours; but it's best if you can chill them overnight. Serve with freshly whipped cream.
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