Pour the cream into a small saucepan. Split vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the cream; toss the scraped pod in there too. Turn the heat to low to gently warm the cream.
Reserve 2 tablespoons of the sugar; pour remaining sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons water into heavy-bottomed saucepan and set over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Then crank the heat to high and let the liquid bubble away — don’t stir; just swirl the pan occasionally — until it turns dark amber. This takes about 4 minutes, but watch closely because it happens fast.
Moving quickly, fish the vanilla pod out of the cream and save for another use. Slowly stir the warm cream into the caramel over medium heat. Once it comes to a boil (it will fast), turn off the heat and let the mixture cool for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Whisk a little of the cream/caramel mixture into the egg yolks. Gradually add the rest, until it’s all incorporated.
Strain the mixture into a pitcher or large measuring cup and pour into four ramekins. Place the ramekins in a shallow pan half filled with cold water. If you like your caramel a bit salty like me, sprinkle a few extra grains of sea salt on top of each one. Cook at 300 degrees for about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes. Chill for at least 3 hours, but it’s best if you can chill it overnight. Serve with whipped heavy cream.