Crème brûlée, French for "burned cream," is a custard whose brown sugar topping is melted and crystallized under a broiler. Melting the brown sugar topping in the microwave instead and pouring it over each chilled dessert keeps the custard cold so it can be served in the classic tradition. Vanilla beans, found in the spice section in the supermarket, are worth the extra expense. Nonfat dry milk gives the custard a thick consistency.
Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl; stir well with a whisk. Set aside.
Pour reduced-fat milk into a medium saucepan. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean; add seeds, bean, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, and dry milk to pan. Heat mixture over medium heat to 180° or until tiny bubbles form around the edge (do not boil), stirring occasionally with a whisk. Discard bean.
Gradually add hot milk mixture to egg mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Divide milk mixture evenly among 6 (4-ounce) ramekins or custard cups. Place ramekins in a 13 x 9-inch baking pan; add hot water to pan to a depth of 1 inch. Bake at 300° for 1 hour or until center barely moves when ramekin is touched. Remove ramekins from pan; cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and chill at least 4 hours or overnight.
Combine brown sugar and water in a 1-cup glass measure. Microwave at HIGH 30 seconds; stir until sugar dissolves. Microwave at HIGH 60 seconds; pour evenly over each dessert, quickly tipping ramekins to coat tops of brûlées. (There will be a thin layer of melted sugar.) Let harden.