Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. In a medium heavy saucepan combine whipping cream, the 1/2 cup sugar, and half-and-half. Using the tip of a small sharp knife, scrape out seeds from vanilla bean. Add vanilla seeds and pod to cream mixture. Cook and stir over medium heat just until mixture comes to boiling. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes to infuse cream mixture with vanilla flavor. Remove vanilla pod; discard or reserve for another use.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whisk egg yolks until combined. Gradually whisk warm cream mixture into egg yolks.
Place ten 2-ounce ramekins in a 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Divide cream mixture evenly among ramekins. Place baking pan on an oven rack. Pour hot water into baking pan around ramekins to reach a depth of 3/4 inch.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until centers appear set when gently shaken. Remove ramekins from water; cool on a wire rack. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours.
To serve, sprinkle the 1/4 cup sugar evenly over tops of custards. Using a culinary blow torch, heat sugar until a bubbly brown crust forms.*
If your ramekins are broiler-safe, you can melt the sugar under the broiler. Preheat broiler. Return chilled custards to the baking pan and surround with ice cubes and a little cold water. Broil about 5 inches from the heat about 2 minutes or until a bubbly brown crust forms.