Classic Flan

1 3/4 cups whipping cream
1 cup whole milk 
Pinch of salt
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
3 large eggs
2 large yolks
7 tablespoons sugar

1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325°F. Combine cream, milk and salt in heavy medium saucepan. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into cream mixture; add bean. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and let steep 30 minutes.

2. Whisk eggs, egg yolks and 7 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl just until blended. Add a 1/4 cup of the milk mixture to the beaten eggs and mix. (This will bring the temperature of the eggs closer to that of the milk mixture.) Add all of the egg mixture to the milk mixture and gently whisk without creating lots of foam. Pour custard through small sieve to eliminate any eggy bits. Set aside. 

3. Combine 1 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water in another heavy medium saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and cook without stirring until syrup turns deep amber, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan occasionally, about 7-8 minutes. Quickly pour caramel into six 3/4-cup ramekins or custard cups. Using oven mitts as aid, immediately tilt each ramekin to coat sides. Set ramekins into 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

4. Pour the custard into the prepared ramekins, dividing evenly (mixture will fill ramekins). Transfer baking dish to oven rack and fill the baking dish with enough water into baking pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins. Bake until centers of flans are gently set, about 45 minutes. Transfer flans to rack and cool. Chill until cold, about 2 hours. Cover and chill overnight. (Can be made 2 days ahead.) To serve, run small sharp knife around flan to loosen. Turn over onto plate. Shake gently to release flan. Carefully lift off ramekin allowing caramel syrup to run over flan. Repeat with remaining flans and serve.
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