This is one of those classic desserts that everyone will oooh and aaaah over, but is really quite simple! The best part about is that you can make it well in advance, just leaving the flame throwing torch part for the end - and that's the fun part anyway, so it's fun to do in front of your guests. I highly recommend spending the 20 bucks to get a little kitchen torch. They are widely available. Even if you don't use it very often, it's still cheaper than going out and paying 8 bucks per serving at a restaurant. And since it involves fire, it shouldn't be too hard to convince your spouse of the necessity.
The ingredients are really very simple:
2 cups cream
5 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/3 cup sugar
1 t. vanilla (or if you're really awesome, 1 vanilla bean)
additional sugar for the marvelous crust on top
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a saucepan, heat the cream up to barely simmering, then pull off the heat. In the mean time, beat the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla together until well combined but not frothy. Say no to froth. You don't want it. Gradually whisk the cream into the egg yolks until well combined.
Pour the custard mixture in to 6 ramekins or custard cups, then place them into a baking pan. Carefully place the baking pan in the oven, then pour enough boiling water into the pan around the ramekins to go half way up the sides of them. Bake for 30-40 minutes (this will depend on how deep your ramekins are, how much water is around the pans, etc.) until the custard is set but still a little jiggly in the middle. It will set up completely as it cools. You do not want it to be browned on top - that's over cooked.
Carefully remove the pan - remember, you've got sloshy water in there - and set it on a rack to cool. I have tried many different methods of pulling the ramekins out of the boiling water bath and often with messy results. I find it's just plain easier and safer to let the pan sit for a few minutes until it's not quite so blazing hot. Then carefully remove the ramekins to another rack and allow them to cool to room temperature before wrapping them in saran wrap. Refrigerate for 1-8 hours before serving - the longer the better.
Pull them out of the fridge and sprinkle a generous and even layer of sugar over the top of each, roughly a tablespoon. Use your kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar, moving the torch around frequently to avoid burning the sugar in any one spot. Serve with berries (black berries in particular are marvelous) and enjoy that satisfying crack when you bust the sugar crust into the sweet, soft custard below.
As a side note, we had a couple left over that we wrapped up (Rachel, for some reason, wouldn't even try it. Ethan was very eager to help finish hers.) The next day, the sugar crust was mostly dissolved into a sweet syrup. Still delicious, just different. Kinda more like flan.