Maple syrup adds sweetness and flavor to the custard mixture in this rich and creamy dessert. The dried cranberry topper adds a burst of color.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat six 6-ounce custard cups or soufflé dishes with nonstick cooking spray. Place cups or dishes in a 3-quart rectangular baking dish; set aside. In a heavy small saucepan, combine whipping cream and the 3 tablespoons sugar; heat over medium heat just until bubbly, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine egg yolks, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt. Beat with a wire whisk or rotary beater just until combined. Slowly whisk hot whipping cream mixture into the egg yolk mixture.
Divide custard mixture among prepared custard cups or souffle dishes. Place baking dish on oven rack. Pour enough boiling water into the baking dish to reach halfway up the sides of the custard cups or soufflé dishes.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until custards appear set when lightly shaken. Remove custard cups or soufflé dishes from water; cool on a wire rack. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
Before serving, let custards stand at room temperature for 20 minutes. If desired, run a thin spatula or knife around the edge of each custard; invert custards out of cups or dishes onto serving plates.
Meanwhile, for caramelized sugar, in a heavy 8-inch skillet, heat the 1/4 cup sugar over medium-high heat until sugar begins to melt, shaking skillet occasionally to heat sugar evenly. Do not stir. Once sugar starts to melt, reduce heat to low; cook about 5 minutes more or until all of the sugar is melted and golden brown, stirring as needed with a wooden spoon. Quickly drizzle caramelized sugar over the custards. (If sugar starts to harden in the skillet, return to heat, stirring until melted.) Sprinkle individual servings with toasted hazelnuts and dried cranberries. Serve custards immediately. Makes 6 servings