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1 quart heavy cream 1 cup sugar 1/4 Madagascar vanilla bean, split lengthwise 11 egg yolks White sugar, for topping

Place heavy cream, sugar, and Madagascar vanilla bean in double boiler over medium heat. Make sure bottom of double boiler is not touching the water.

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Stirring occasionally, heat for approximately 30 minutes, or until mixture is hot to the touch.

Remove custard from heat. Remove vanilla bean and reserve.

Briskly whisk in egg yolks, making sure you scrape as much of the egg yolks into custard as you can. Strain custard into plastic or glass container using fine-mesh strainer. Add vanilla bean. Cover custard and refrigerate overnight.

Next day: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Assemble individual custard cups in a baking dish.

Briskly whisk custard and strain into large measuring cup, or something that will easily pour.

Fill cups to 1/2 inch from top, and place in baking dish.

Pour hot water into baking dish until it comes two-thirds up the sides of the custard cups. Cover baking dish tightly with foil. (It is important that there are no holes in foil that allow steam to escape.)

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Cook 40 minutes. Carefully peel back foil and gently tap cups.

The custard should be firm. If there are any "waves" in the center of the custard, it has not cooked completely. Re-cover and continue baking for 10-minute intervals until done.

Remove baking dish from oven and remove foil. Let custard stand in the water for 30 minutes. Then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate four hours or overnight.

To caramelize the sugar just before serving, preheat broiler. Place thin layer of sugar (I use white sugar) on top of custard. You want to put enough on so that you can't see custard, but not too much. Place under heat just long enough to caramelize sugar.

Yield: 8 servings. Serve with a sprig of mint and fresh berry garnish.

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