A recipe for Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée inspired by our visit to Downtown Disney in 2013! This creamy vanilla-based custard is topped with a layer of crisp, caramelized sugar for a fun and indulgent dessert at home.
Check out the rest of our 2013 Disney/Legoland trip here:
- Teriyaki Chicken Hand Rolls and Epcot International Food and Wine Festival
- Kasseri Saganaki (Griddled Greek Cheese with Pistachios and Honey) and Epcot International Food and Wine Festival
- Zapiekanka (Polish Mushroom and Cheese Bread) and Epcot International Food and Wine Festival
- Frozen S’mores and Epcot International Food and Wine Festival
- Shrimp Tacos (Tacos de Camarones) and Epcot International Food and Wine Festival
- Lego Crayons and Legoland Florida
We visited Downtown Disney in the afternoon with friends of ours after spending the morning checking out the University of Central Florida campus (where Chad recently graduated with his Master’s). We arrived just in time for lunch and tried out Cookes of Dublin.
Cookes of Dublin
Cookes of Dublin is a counter service restaurant located next to the sit down Raglan Road pub and restaurant. They are popular for their fish and chips, meat and seafood pies, battered sandwiches, skinny (thin) chips, and doh bar fried candy bars.
Seating inside is very limited, but we got lucky and were able to grab a table just as another family was leaving. There are a few more tables available outside, but it was incredibly hot and humid that day. If you want to grab a table inside, definitely avoid prime meal times.
I ordered the Mini Irish Sausages, Chad got the Battered Burger and Chips, and we shared Garlic and Parmesan Skinny Chips. Everything was absolutely delicious. The Mini Irish Sausages were lightly battered and fried. The burger was also lightly battered and served with garlic mayonnaise and tomato chutney.
Lego Imagination Center
We had a great time exploring many of the shops in Downtown Disney. Chad’s favorite, of course, was the Lego Imagination Center.
We didn’t eat at the T-Rex Cafe, but Evan loved digging for bones in the play area connected to the restaurant. His absolute favorite was the splash area near Once Upon a Toy. I’m so happy we had an extra change of clothes. He was completely soaked and would have spent all day in the fountains if he could.
Wolfgang Puck Express
Downtown Disney has both the Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe and Wolfgang Puck Express (now closed). With an 18 month old and our friends’ infant, we didn’t want to attempt a sit down restaurant, so we chose Wolfgang Puck Express. We arrived at 5, just before the dinner rush and were able to order and find a table right away. There is a decent amount of seating inside and out. It started to get really crowded as we were leaving.
I ordered the Spaghetti Bolognese and Creme Brulee with Berries. Chad and Evan shared a Pepperoni and Mushroom Pizza. Our friends also ordered a Pepperoni and Mushroom Pizza and a Half Rotisserie Chicken.
We had such a fun afternoon exploring Downtown Disney! Evan wore himself out and fell asleep as soon as we put him in the car.
Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée
After trying the delicious Crème Brûlée at Wolfgang Puck Express, I ordered a culinary torch to make my own Creme Brulee at home! It was actually easier than I thought it would be and uses only a handful of ingredients.
Heavy cream is steeped with scraped out vanilla beans before mixing with sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla extract to create the custard base. The mixture is divided among ramekins and baked in a water bath just until set.
Refrigerate the baked custard until well chilled, about 4 hours and up to 3 days (perfect for making ahead!). Then the fun starts. Right before serving, sprinkle the tops evenly with about a tablespoon of sugar and heat with the torch until the sugar caramelizes. The result is a crisp caramelized layer over the creamy custard.
A few tips for Crème Brûlée
If you don’t have vanilla beans available, substitute with about 1-2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste.
While beating the eggs, add the warm heavy cream in a very thin and light stream to keep the eggs from scrambling. If a few pieces do scramble, strain the mixture before dividing among ramekins.
Carefully pour the water into the baking dish around the ramekins and transfer to the oven. You don’t want any water splashing into the custard and no custard falling into the water. The water should reach about halfway up the ramekins.
Bake the custards just until set around the edges, but still a little wobbly in the center. They will set further as they cool. Deeper ramekins will take longer than the wider, more shallow ramekins. I personally prefer the more shallow dishes to really have that contrast in texture in every bite.
A culinary torch is best to create an even color over the tops of the Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée. If not available, you can place the sugar-covered custards under a broiler. Keep an eye on them since they can burn quickly and rotate the ramekins as needed. Don’t cover the top with sugar and torch until immediately before serving. It will soften with time and lose that iconic crisp texture.
Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée Recipe
Adapted from Pineapple and Coconut
Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée
- 2 cups (470 milliliters) heavy cream
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1/3 cup (67 grams) granulated sugar
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) vanilla extract
- Pinch salt
- 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
- Fresh berries
- Place 4 (6 ounce, 170 milliliter) ramekins in a deep, large baking dish and set aside.
- In a small saucepan, place the heavy cream over medium heat. Scrape in the seeds from the vanilla bean and add the emptied pod. Once the cream begins to steam, but not boil, remove from heat, cover, and steep for 20 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 325˚F (160˚C).
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg yolks, vanilla extract, and salt until light and thickened.
- Remove the pod from the heavy cream. While whisking the eggs, slowly add the heavy cream in a thin stream, careful not to heat the eggs too quickly or beat too much air into the mixture. If any of the eggs scramble, strain the mixture.
- Divide the custard evenly among the ramekins. Carefully fill the pan halfway up the ramekins with hot water without splashing any into the ramekins.
- Gently transfer the pan to the preheated oven without splashing any water. Bake until barely set, but still a little loose on the top, 30-35 minutes.
- Remove the ramekins from water bath and place on wire rack to cool. Once room temperature, cover, and refrigerate 4 hours to up to 3 days.
- Once ready to serve, bring the ramekins to room temperature and top each custard with an even layer of sugar, about 1 tablespoon (12 grams). Move the flame from a culinary torch across the entire surface until the sugar starts to darken and caramelize.
- Serve the Crème Brûlée immediately after caramelizing the top with fresh berries if desired.