Use 6-oz. ramekins. Heat the oven to 325°F. Heat the cream and milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat until scalded (you'll see small bubbles on the sides of the pan). Split the vanilla bean in half, if using, and scrape the seeds into the cream. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, slowly whisk the sugar into the egg yolks. Slowly whisk the hot cream/milk into the sugar/yolk mixture. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a pitcher or measuring cup. Stir in the salt and vanilla extract, if using.
Arrange eight 6-oz. ramekins in a baking dish with deep sides. Pour the mixture into the ramekins, fill the baking dish with water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins and cover the dish with foil. Bake until just set, 25 to 50 minutes. Be sure to start checking early; baking time will depend on the thickness and depth of your ramekins and baking dish. Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven and let the ramekins cool in the water bath. Remove, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 2 days. Serve pots de crème directly from their ramekins.
Espresso pot de crème
Omit the vanilla. Crush 1/2 cup espresso beans into coarse pieces, add to the cream/milk, and heat to a simmer. Remove from the heat; infuse for 5 minutes. Strain and proceed.
Ginger pot de crème
Omit the vanilla. Cut a 3-inch piece of fresh ginger into very thin slices, add to the cream/milk, and heat to a simmer. Remove from the heat; infuse for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain, bring back to a simmer, and proceed.
nutrition information (per serving):
Photo: Ben Fink