Celebrating With Chocolate Terrine And Basil Ice Cream

Chocolate terrine and basil ice cream

Today is my 29th birthday. I can hardly believe it's here.

At 29 I am two years out of grad school, seven years out of college, 11 years out of high school, and 24 years beyond kindergarten. 

I moved out of my parents' house seven years ago (not counting the eight years at college and boarding school), have lived in three different apartments since then, have had four different roommates, and have now been living with Jeff for almost a year and a half. We're in the process of selling his condo and searching for houses together. I'll likely become a homeowner this year. 

I've had numerous jobs between college and now (not to mention before then). I edited crossword puzzles and word games for two and a half years and tutored students for the SAT on the side. I started editing marketing and technology research when I moved up to Boston for grad school. I cut my hours back to part-time and worked at a bakery for year. I'm back to editing research full time again.

I think about grownup things, like bills and mortgages and the future. I know 30 is the big year, but 29, for me, will be the year to say goodbye to my 20s and to prepare for my 30s. Twenty-nine seems like it's going to be a big year for me, and I'm looking forward to all it throws my way. 

To celebrate, I made myself what I hoped would be the best dessert ever. And yes, it is okay to make your own birthday cake or dessert. How else will you get exactly what you want?

What I wanted was a dessert inspired by the dessert I had at Ten Tables: a chocolate terrine with Thai basil ice cream.

I think I've had three different terrine/pave desserts recently, and I got to thinking that it couldn't be too hard to make one myself. Of all the combinations I tried, I loved it paired with basil ice cream best. The light, refreshing flavor of the ice cream cuts the richness of the chocolate just the right amount.

I looked through cookbook after cookbook and finally found the perfect terrine recipe in Bouchon. I knew to turn to David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop for the basil ice cream recipe, and I thought I'd top the whole thing off with sugared basil leaves, which I grew a fondness for after first having one in a dessert at Bergamot, a local restaurant.

Because this was my birthday dessert, I decided it was okay to treat myself to Valrhona Manjari chocolate, which costs $16.99 a pound. For any other occasion, I would have gone with something less expensive, but the quality of the chocolate you use directly affects the finished product. I was going for a high-quality finished product.

The milk and cream I used in the ice cream came from High Lawn Farm, a local farm.

The basil is from Wilson Farm, another local farm.

Chocolate terrine and basil ice cream

Basil Ice Cream (adapted from The Perfect Scoop)


1 cup packed basil leaves
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
Pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
1 lemon


In bowl of food processor, combine basil and sugar, and pulse until basil leaves are ground as finely as possible.

Add 1 cup of heavy cream, and continue pulsing until combined.

Pour half of the basil mixture into a large bowl, and pour the other half into a medium saucepan. Add the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream to the basil mixture in the bowl. Set a fine-mesh strainer over the bowl.

Add the milk and salt to the basil mixture in the saucepan, and heat the mixture.

In a separate bowl whisk together the egg yolks. Temper the warm basil mixture into the egg yolks, by adding a spoonful at a time, and whisking constantly. Once you have transferred half of the basil mixture into the egg yolks, pour the yolk mixture back into the saucepan, and whisk until combined.

Return the saucepan to the stove, and stir constantly with a rubber spatula until mixture has thickened and coats the back of the spatula.

Pour the custard through the strainer, and stir it into the cream mixture. Zest a little bit of the lemon to the whole lemon into the mixture, and stir in the zest. (I only zested a tiny bit because I wanted a strong basil flavor.)

Place the bowl in an ice bath, and stir the custard occasionally until the mixture is cool.

Cover with plastic wrap, and chill in refrigerator overnight.

Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.

Chocolate terrine and basil ice cream

Chocolate Terrine (adapted from Bouchon)

I apologize for the silly measurements. I cut the recipe in half so I wouldn't stuff myself with too much chocolate terrine this week. I also couldn't find a terrine pan or mold even though I was so willing to buy myself one for a birthday present. I used a small, shallow baking dish instead. Use a dish you prefer to get the shape you desire.


Canola oil
6 ounces Valrhona Manjari 64% bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 1/4 ounces unsalted butter (1 whole stick plus a sliver if you don't have a scale)
2 eggs, separated
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup + 2 1/2 tablespoons + 1/2 teaspoon confectioners' sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons + 1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon heavy cream
1 teaspoon granulated sugar


Lightly oil 3-cup capacity baking dish or terrine mold. Line the dish with plastic wrap.

In a double boiler, set over hot but not simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter. Stir the mixture occasionally, and remove from heat once melted. Let cool slightly.

When chocolate mixture is just warm to the touch, stir in the 4 egg yolks. Sift confectioners' sugar and cocoa together and stir into chocolate mixture.

In bowl of electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip heavy cream to soft peaks. Transfer whipped cream to a small bowl and keep in refrigerator while you whip the egg whites.

Clean bowl and whisk. Whip egg whites and granulated sugar to soft peaks in bowl of electric stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment.

Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture.

Then fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture.

Pour into the prepared dish, and refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, for at least 12 hours. (Terrine will keep for 3 days.)

To cut terrine: Run a knife under hot water, wipe it dry, and slice cleanly through the terrine. Clean and reheat the knife after each cut.

Sugared Basil Leaves

Place 10-15 basil leaves on a wire rack set in a sheet pan. Brush leaves lightly with egg whites. Sprinkle with superfine sugar and let dry for 6 hours. To speed the drying process, place the rack with the prepared leaves in a 200-degree oven for 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the basil leaves in there with the door closed for 3 hours, or until completely dry.

Chocolate terrine and basil ice cream

I tried a few small bites of this last night to make sure everything worked together. It wasn't as good as Ten Tables' version, but I was still pretty happy with the results. The terrine was rich and smooth -- so glad I used that expensive chocolate. The basil ice cream had that fresh fragrant flavor I was seeking. And the sugared basil leaves were crunchy, herby, and sweet. I cannot wait to really dig into this tonight!

What would be your perfect birthday dessert?