A small hand-held blowtorch, made for use in the kitchen, is useful for caramelizing the sugar topping. Or, use the broiler to brown the sugar topping.
Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly coat 8 (4-ounce) ramekins or shallow fluted dishes with butter. Place in shallow roasting pan
Bring cream to simmer in medium saucepan on medium heat. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Beat egg yolks and 1/2 cup of the sugar in large bowl with wire whisk until pale yellow. Gradually whisk in cream mixture. Pour into ramekins. Carefully pour enough hot water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until custards are almost set in center. Cool custards in water bath. Remove from water bath. Cover each custard with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight
Sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons of the remaining sugar evenly over each custard. Holding a hand-held torch 4 inches from the sugar, lightly brown the sugar using a slow even motion. Remove the flame just before desired degree of browning is reached, as the sugar will continue to brown for a few seconds
Refrigerate 30 minutes before serving to allow topping to harden
Test Kitchen Tip: Sugar topping can also be browned under a broiler. Place custards on a baking sheet. Broil 6 inches from heat for 4 to 6 minutes or until sugar is melted and golden brown.