1 cup granulated sugar, divided
3 tablespoons water
2 cups whole milk
1 cup half-and-half
1/3 cup cocoa nibs*
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out with paring knife
6 large eggs
*Note: cocoa nibs are available in the chocolate section of many gourmet shops.
1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Place six 6-ounce ramekins, souffle dishes or custard cups in 9" x 13" x 11/2" oblong baking dish.
2. In small saucepan, over medium high heat, combine 1/2 cup sugar and water. Bring to boil, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush to avoid crystallization. Boil, without stirring, until syrup turns a light golden color. Swirl pan gently to mix if color is uneven. Spoon or pour about 11/2 tablespoons into bottom of each ramekin.
3. Combine milk, half-and-half, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, cocoa nibs and vanilla bean pod and seeds in saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a gentle boil; remove from heat, cover pan and let steep for 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, slowly whisk eggs in mixing bowl, being careful not to beat in air. Slowly beat hot milk mixture into eggs. Strain custard into ramekins.
5. Pour hot water into baking dish until it comes 2/3 of way up sides of ramekins. Carefully transfer baking dish to oven. Bake custards for 40-45 minutes, until tops are jiggly and set, but not puffed. Remove custards from hot water to cool on wire rack. Refrigerate until completely chilled, 4 hours or overnight.
6. To unmold, run tip of paring knife around top edge of flan. Invert over dessert dish and give a vigorous shake or two. The flan should drop right out. Allow caramel sauce to drain onto dish.
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