Special equipment: six 1 1/2-cup ramekins; a kitchen blowtorch
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil shiny-side up and spray with cooking spray.
Put the bacon on the baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven. Pour off the fat and reserve; you should have about 1/4 cup. Sprinkle the bacon with the brown sugar and toss to coat with tongs. Continue to bake, flipping the slices every 5 minutes, until the bacon is very dark brown, about 25 minutes more. Let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. If the bacon sticks to the foil, put back in the oven for 3 minutes to warm and melt the sugar slightly (this will release it from the foil). Leave the oven on.
Meanwhile, using the top of a 1 1/2-cup ramekin, cut out 6 brioche rounds, one from each slice. Press a piece of bread into the bottom of each of six 1 1/2-cup ramekins, making sure the bread fits in snugly and will not float to the top when the custard is poured over. Put the ramekins in a roasting pan and set aside.
Combine the heavy cream, vanilla pod and seeds and reserved bacon fat in a medium saucepan and whisk to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Discard the vanilla pod.
Whisk the maple syrup and yolks in a large bowl. Add the cream mixture a little at a time, stirring constantly. Pour the liquid over the brioche pieces in the ramekins. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
Bake the creme brulees until set but still trembling a little bit in the center, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool at room temperature for 10 minutes, then remove from the water bath. Refrigerate the ramekins for 2 hours and up to 3 days.
To serve: sprinkle the top of each creme brulee with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Using a kitchen blowtorch, melt the sugar, swirling the ramekins as needed to make sure it's evenly browned. Let stand for 5 minutes. Serve each ramekin with 2 slices of bacon.
Propane gas torches are highly flammable and should be kept away from heat, open flame and prolonged exposure to sunlight. They should be used only in well-ventilated areas. Follow torch manufacturer's instructions for use.
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