There are some things that happen to you in childhood that you never quite get over, and a good custard is one of them. My mother used to make custard constantly, in her toughest old saucepan, resting the whole pot, with a sizzle, in the kitchen sink to stop it from cooking further and turning into scrambled eggs. If this is your first attempt at custard, fill the sink with cold water now. You may need it.
Whisk egg yolks and sugar together for a few minutes until pale and creamy. When you lift the mixture with the whisk, it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon-like stream without breaking. Bring milk and vanilla bean to boil, then scrape seeds from bean into milk and discard bean. Pour milk in a slow, steady stream into the egg mixture, whisking slowly. When mixture is combined, return it to the pan and cook very gently, stirring all the while with a wooden spoon for 10 to 15 minutes, until custard thickens enough to drip slowly from the spoon. If the mixture starts to set, remove from heat, strain, cool, and return to a gentler heat. Strain into a bowl resting in a sink or basin of ice-cold water. Cool and chill.
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