Preparation / Directions:
In a medium-size nonreactive saucepan, combine the cream, 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar, and the vanilla bean and pulp over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil, whisking to dissolve the sugar.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar together. Whisk 1 cup of the hot cream mixture into the egg yolk mixture until smooth. Slowly pour this mixture into the hot cream mixture, whisk for 2 minutes, and remove from the heat. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve. Let cool completely.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Fill eight 6-ounce custard cups with equal portions of the cream mixture. Place the cups in a deep baking dish large enough to accommodate them comfortably without touching. Fill the baking dish with enough water to come halfway up the sides of the cups.
Bake in the lower third of the oven until lightly golden brown and just set, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 12 hours.
About 2 hours before serving, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the raw sugar on the top of each custard. One at a time, using a kitchen blowtorch, approach the sugar with the torch at a low angle until the inner blue flame is 1/4 inch above the surface, and move the flame in a continuous motion over the surface until the sugar has caramelized. Or, preheat the broiler, sprinkle the sugar over the custards, and slide the dishes under the broiler. Broil until the sugar caramelizes, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove and allow the custards to cool again. Refrigerate and serve chilled.
Note: Vanilla beans are long and thin. To get the essence of the bean, it must be split lengthwise, then scraped to remove the resinous, pasty insides. Lay the bean on a flat surface with its seam as the center and split to one end. Place the point back at the center and split it to the other end. Use the blade of the knife to scrape the pasty seeds out.