Creme brulee is a classic egg custard that’s delicately crunchy on top and smooth and creamy below. Thorough mixing and slow, gentle cooking (thanks to the water bath) ensures the right texture.
Place a rack in the bottom third of oven and preheat to 300°.
Crack eggs into a large bowl. In a small saucepan, scald cream by placing over high heat until it just begins to boil; remove from heat immediately. Divide granulated sugar between hot cream and eggs. Whisk sugar into cream; whisk sugar with eggs until smooth and lighter in color.
While gently whisking the egg mixture, very slowly drizzle in hot cream. Try not to create foam. Stir vanilla extract into the mixture.
Place six 4-ounce ramekins into a large roasting pan with sides at least 2 inches high. Ladle the egg and cream mixture into the ramekins, filling them about seven-eighths full. Pour very hot tap water into the bottom of the roasting pan until water comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until custards are set but jiggle slightly when shaken, about 45 to 55 minutes (or until they read 160° on an instant-read thermometer inserted at an angle). Remove pan from oven and let ramekins cool in water bath 15 minutes. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator, 2 hours or overnight.
Turn broiler to high. Put ramekins onto a sheet pan or sturdy cookie sheet. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over custards. Broil 5½ inches from heat 3 minutes or until sugar melts and bubbles, keeping a close eye all the while. Cool on wire racks to harden.
(Alternatively, use a propane torch waved about an inch away from the sugared tops of the custards until nicely browned.) Garnish with fresh cherries.