Crème brûlée isn't as difficult as you might think—and it's a great dessert to make ahead for the holidays. When I burn the sugar, I like to leave it a little uneven, so you get that nice contrast between the caramelized sugar and the cream underneath.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F and prepare an ice bath. Make the custard: Bring cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan over low-medium heat. Whisk in ½ cup sugar. Slice a vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the beans into the cream/sugar mixture. (Chef's tip: Place the scraped vanilla bean in a jar of sugar for a week or so to give the sugar a great vanilla flavor.) Pour the custard into the ice bath, moving a spatula through it in a figure-eight motion to cool. Set aside.
Prepare the custard for baking: Whisk the yolks in a medium bowl. Place the shallow baking dishes on a rimmed baking sheet. Ladle some of the cooled cream mixture into the yolks and whisk to combine. Add the remaining cream to the yolk mixture, continuing to whisk until combined.
Pour custard through a strainer, then into a measuring cup for easy pouring. Pour ½ cup of custard into each baking dish, then settle the baking sheet in the oven. Pour another ¼ cup of custard into each dish. Using a measuring cup, pour warm water into the rimmed baking sheet, about 1 inch deep around the custard. Cook 45 minutes, checking after 30 since oven cooking times can vary.
Finish the crème brûlée: Evenly scatter sugar over each creme brûlée (about one teaspoon). Lightly go over the sugar with a kitchen torch until it's caramelized. Repeat this process two more times for each dish. Garnish with raspberries and serve.