Preparation / Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 F (160 C). Place cardamom pods in a plastic bag and secure shut. Using a rolling pin, crush pods to release and coarsely crack seeds. Or, crush pods using a mortar and pestle. Turn crushed pods and seeds into a medium-size heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in cream and 3 tablespoons sugar. Over medium heat, bring just to a boil, stirring occasionally, especially when mixture is close to a boil, about 6 minutes. Then, pour through a fine mesh sieve or a sieve lined with a piece of cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Discard crushed pods. Put a kettle full of water on to boil.
2. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks until smooth. While whisking constantly, gradually pour warm cream mixture into eggs. Skim off any froth on surface of mixture. Ladle into 4 small soufflE dishes or custard cups, such as everyday glass custard cups. Each cup should be able to hold at least 3/4 cup (175 ml) and be at least 3-1/2 inches (9 cm) wide. Place cups, spaced slightly apart, in an 8-inch (2-L) or 9-inch (2.5-L) square pan. Tear off a piece of foil large enough to loosely cover pan and poke a few holes in foil.
3. Pour enough boiling water into pan to reach halfway up sides of custard cups. Loosely cover pan with foil and bake in centre of preheated oven until a knife inserted near edge of custard comes out clean and custard is set, about 35 minutes. Remove custard cups from hot water and immediately refrigerate, uncovered, at least until thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours.
4. While custards are baking, prepare topping. Line a baking sheet with ungreased foil. Place sugar and water in a small frying pan or shallow saucepan, preferably with a light inner surface so sugar color can be seen as it caramelizes. Place over medium heat and cook, without stirring, until sugar is melted and a light golden brown color, about 6 to 7 minutes. If edges of sugar become dark before centre, gently swirl pan over heat. Caramel continues to darken after removing from heat. Caramel is extremely hot, so don't touch with your fingers or taste. Immediately pour onto foil-lined sheet and leave at room temperature until completely cool, at least 10 minutes. Then, peel cooled caramel off foil and place in food processor or blender, breaking up as needed to fit in bowl or jar. Whirl until very fine. Caramel powder turns sticky very quickly so immediately pour into a dry jar or plastic container and seal tightly. Keep at room temperature until needed.
5. About 5 minutes before serving, adjust oven rack so it is about 4 inches (10 cm) from broiling unit. Preheat broiler. Place thoroughly chilled custards on a baking sheet with a rim. Using a dry spoon, sprinkle 2 teaspoons caramel powder evenly over surface of each custard. You will not use all of the caramel powder. Place under broiler until topping has melted into a thin even coating, about 1 to 1-1/2 minutes. Watch closely to prevent burning. Serve immediatel