Preheat oven to 180 C. Pour the milk into a saucepan, add the vanilla bean & bring the milk to just below boiling point. Pour into a bowl & set it aside to cool.
Put two ramekins in a pan full of hot water. Make the caramel. Spread out the sugar evenly on the bottom of a large saucepan. Heat it slowly, without stirring, tilting the pan backwards & forward until the sugar melts.
Lift the heated ramekins out of the water & dry them quickly. Watch the melted sugar closely, and when it turns golden colour, pour the mixture into the dishes & simply turn until they are all coated. Set them aside.
Put the egg in a bowl, beat them lightly, beat in the sugar & vanilla extract. Remove vanilla pod from the milk, then gradually mix the milk into the eggs.
Strain the egg mixture into the caramel lined ramekins or moulds & stand them in a roasting pan. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until it comes halfway up the sides of the dishes, then carefully put the pan in the oven.
Bake the caramel custard for about 40 minutes. The custards are done when a slender knife blade, inserted in one of them, comes out clean.
Lift the dishes out of the water, let them cool, then chill them for several hours in the refrigerator.
To serve, run a round – bladed knife across the edge of each custard, place a dessert plate upside down on top of the dish & turn the dish & plate over together. Some of the caramel will settle in a puddle around the custard, so its important not to choose dessert dishes that are too shallow
Try serving with fresh fruits
Flavour the caramel with cinnamon, cocoa, or rum instead of vanilla.
You can also use zest of oranges to the milk for citrusy caramel custard.