Pistachio Gelato & Blackberry Creamsicle Sherbet

December 13, 2010 at 7:57 pm 54 comments


Dear Mom and Dad,

I know it’s been a while. A long while. I’m sorry that I’ve stopped sending daily photos – it’s because I don’t have any photos to send. And I know I haven’t called in weeks. Every day is a jumble of classes, radio, clubs, essays, work, and somehow the things I used to be so passionate about have been pushed aside in the struggle. But I also know how much I care about you, and more importantly, you know it too. Four days until I fly home.

Dad, it was so good to see you over Thanksgiving. I opened the car door and saw you standing in the garage. You just looked at me like you were seeing sunlight for the first time in months. I had just woken up; I didn’t care that you were in work clothes and covered in dust when I fell into that hug. I love that it didn’t take more than ten minutes for one of your smart aleck comments to get on my nerves. You probably missed the way I roll my eyes.

I missed your cooking. I was glad you remembered I like my spaghetti swimming (drowning) in tomato sauce, even though I knew you wouldn’t forget. Did you see how quickly I shoveled that potato-celery root puree down? Yes, I was hungry, and no, they don’t cook food like that in our dining hall. But what really made it good was the way it tasted like twilight on the patio, too many dishes on the counter, the warmth of a dog under the table. Even though I slept for two days straight that week, it was good to be home.

Also, it was fun kicking your butt in Wii boxing.


Mom. I can’t believe I haven’t seen you since August. When we parted, our red currants were still in season and it was so hot in Boston, I almost passed out that afternoon at the T station. Now, the metal spokes of my umbrella are mangled from wind and my rubber rain boots have split along the sides. We’ve had little flurries of snow, but I still stubbornly wear sundresses to class. You’d throw a fit if you saw me walk out like that. I’d point to my tights, and you’d tell me to put on another coat. (You’d be right.)

I always think about the last time I saw you. We were sitting in Neptune Oyster, having our last dinner together. I had finished eating a while ago, but I kept watching you pick at your calamari. I couldn’t bring myself to get up and leave because I knew I would be gone for good. There was no chance of me saying it aloud, but I was terrified. I remember our last hug, and rushing to leave before it overwhelmed me. The last thing I remember is your face – so conflicted.

I know you stress. I hear it in your voice when we talk on the phone, even though you try not to mention your anxieties. You’re worried I’m not eating right, not sleeping enough, working too hard. Maybe. But I hope you know I’m happy despite everything. I’ve grown up a lot in a semester, in most ways for the better. I can’t wait to make you proud with what I’ve accomplished.


The first half of my freshman year went by in a blink. The other day I got in an elevator with the director of undergraduate admissions. He recognized me, and he was seriously interested: was the school a good fit? Was I finding a good balance between challenge and creativity? I told him I was. When I visited in April, I was uncertain. Today, I am sure.

Dad, when we flew out six months ago to check this place out, you remember how much I liked the radio station and the internship opportunities. I was impressed with the students I met and the professors I spoke with. But sometimes I think the decision really came down to… nougat.

It was spring, and cherry blossoms lined the North End like pale pink bridesmaids. We were walking down the brick streets when we saw a huge group of people standing outside Modern Pastry. We’d never heard of it, but we figured we couldn’t argue with a wait like that. When we finally got into the bakery, we bought a bar of nougat – simple, unassuming, and a little out of our comfort zone.

The first bite. Sticky sugar on our fingers and the way every piece melted in our mouths. I thought I’d never had anything so good before. We fought over the last bite. I can’t remember who let who have it. I don’t go into the North End as often as I’d like, but I never forget that nougat.


I tried to recreate it myself, a version with orange blossom water and pistachios. It was, well, utterly inedible. Recipes involving candy thermometers are my weakness, so the nougat never came together. Even after I stuck it in the fridge, it was a sticky disaster, caught between solid and liquid, and a total waste of nuts. It did make me laugh.

But I still had half a bag of pistachios, so I split their shells and poured whole milk into a saucepan. A good fit for another Italian dessert, gelato. Elegant, subtle, and a buttery green, it captured the spirit of my favorite nut perfectly. I also had a bag of frozen blackberries – remember how we picked them over the summer? – so I thought I’d make a blackberry creamsicle sherbet too. It turns out, blackberry and pistachio go beautifully together, the nuttiness of one balancing the sweetness of the other.

Maybe I’ll try the nougat again when I’m home. But most likely not. I’ll spend every day with you two, Mom and Dad, and with Grandma (I’m studying hard and having fun) and Tilly and Otis. I’ll gorge myself on some real food, catch up on a lot of sleep, and find that new balance between child and adult I’m still discovering.


I know how obsessively you two check 17 and Baking, so you’ll read this before I’m home, probably within hours of its posting. I’m not going to say how much I love you, because that’s the kind of thing you do in person. Four days, Mom and Dad.



Unfortunately, I don’t have the recipe for the blackberry sherbet – that’s what I get for making a recipe up as I go along without taking notes. Luckily, I do have the recipe for the pistachio gelato. It’s such a snap to make – really, the hardest part is shelling those pesky nuts. The result is a thick, creamy gelato, not completely smooth but a little textured, an all-natural pale green. It’s beautiful. It’s something I’ll make again when I have a bag of pistachios (I’ll leave the nougat to the experts.)

Pistachio Gelato
Tweaked from Bon Appetit
Makes about 3 cups

3/4 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios
Scant 3/4 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk
1/2 tsp almond extract
4 large egg yolks

In a food processor, grind the pistachios and 1/4 cup sugar into a fine powder. Combine with milk and almond extract in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Whisk the yolks and remaining sugar in a medium bowl. Ladle a spoonful of hot milk mixture bit by bit into the yolks, stirring constantly, to heat the yolks without cooking them. Add the egg mixture to the saucepan and stir over medium-low heat until the custard thickens slightly. The custard should leave a clear trail on the back of a spoon when you run a finger through it. Remove from heat and strain into a medium bowl. Refrigerate until cold. Churn through an ice cream maker.

Entry filed under: Frozen Desserts. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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54 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Warm Vanilla Sugar  |  December 13, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    This looks beyond good. Your pictures are so beautiful!!

  • 2. Ezra  |  December 13, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    Wonderful that you got to spend time with your family!
    The blackberry looks absolutely delicious…

  • 3. Kelly  |  December 13, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    You write beautifully.

  • 4. Nisrine | DInners & DReams  |  December 13, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Elissa, pistachio is my favorite ice cream flavor since I was a child. This recipe sounds simple and delicious!

  • 5. Nisrine | DInners & DReams  |  December 13, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    Btw, if I were your parent this would make me cry. So sweeet!

  • 6. jenny  |  December 13, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Aww, your parents are so lucky to have a daughter like you! And mmm… the gelato looks so tempting. :)

  • 7. Jen  |  December 13, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    I started reading your blog a few weeks ago, and I just wanted to tell you how much I love it. Your writing and photographs are beautiful, I feel like I’m right there with you in all of your stories. I’m so impressed with your baking skills for someone your age. And now I feel ridiculous for saying something so motherly/grandmotherly since I’m only 6 years older than you! Anyway, I just wanted to say hi, and to enjoy your time with your family!

  • 8. Caley  |  December 14, 2010 at 1:15 am

    Ok, my mouth is watering! This looks amazing! Thanks for sharing!

  • 9. Senorita  |  December 14, 2010 at 1:19 am

    You strike me as a precocious child. You would have benefited from siblings.

    • 10. Monique  |  December 14, 2010 at 1:52 am

      And you Senorita, have no information to base a statement like that on. Having been a long time reader (and first time commenter), Elissa has always struck me as an intelligent, thoughtful woman and daughter who is talented in writing, photography and food preparation. As a college teacher myself, I see all kinds of young adults and would welcome a student like Elissa.

    • 11. bell  |  December 14, 2010 at 3:15 pm

      The very fact that you would write such a comment speaks volumes about you. It is rude, presumptuous, unnecessary and inappropriate. I hope for your sake that these are not also accurate descriptions of you – however, there is no evidence to suggest otherwise.

    • 12. Magali  |  December 22, 2010 at 5:25 pm

      what a rude thing to say……. O_o I know if u have a public blog you might get that kind of comments, but that’s totally uncalled for, it’s a beautifull post of a young woman talkng to her parents and I really dont get why some people have nothing to do, but just be mean.
      jealousy, that ‘s what it is!!!

      LOOOVE your blog, and your cooking and photography, of course.
      Sometimes it bothers me that you dont post more often :P
      I love the way you write, keep on enjoying life like you do!!!!

      Merry christmas!!!!

  • 13. K  |  December 14, 2010 at 3:39 am

    I am not your parent. . but a friend and this made me cry. . I hope your stay in Seattle is wonderful. . Enjoy your family!!!!! Merry Christmas Elissa:)

  • 14. Kelly  |  December 14, 2010 at 5:49 am

    This post is infinitely relatable to me, thank you for capturing the multitude of feelings surrounding college. :) And the gelato looks phenomenal. Enjoy home!

  • 15. linda  |  December 14, 2010 at 6:20 am

    you certainly do your parents proud. it is my pleasure to come to your site & share your recipes & stories. you are talented & gifted & you make an impression on people…
    that is why the director of undergraduate admissions remembered you.
    may your holiday be filled with the love & warmth of family & friends!

  • 16. Sue  |  December 14, 2010 at 8:15 am

    Elissa, This post brought tears to my eyes. You write so well and I really look forward to your posts. And I can relate to your parents. Even though our son is a few years older and has graduated and moved away, he’s coming home for Christmas next week and we are so excited. Your parents must be counting the minutes! Keep writing and enjoy your time in Seattle. Happy Holidays to you and your family!

  • 17. Kendra  |  December 14, 2010 at 11:23 am

    This post brought tears to my eyes; having just gotten home from my first semester at college and seeing my family again, this made me realize how much things can change in just a few months, but some things never change. Your posts are so relatable…please keep it up.

  • 18. chocswirl  |  December 14, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    I’m tearing up to, You must be so excited to get home! Hope you have a wonderful Christmas break :)

  • 19. Window On The Prairie  |  December 14, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Have a wonderful time at home. Also, I love the photo of the shells. So pretty.

  • 20. Peggy  |  December 14, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    I loved reading your letter to your parents! So sweet! And these gelatos look absolutely stunning! Have a safe trip home!

  • 21. Millys mini kitchen  |  December 14, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    This makes me emotional…

    PS I love this recipe.

  • 22. Katy  |  December 14, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    You are an amazing writer and photographer. I can imagine how excited you must be to be going home – I know I sure am. (Three more days!!!) Your parents must be proud to have a daughter like you. Congratulations on a successful first semester, and have a phenomenal winter break. :)

  • 23. Lila Ferraro  |  December 14, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    What a sweet note to your parents. I remember when I would go back to college, my mother would cry every time! I’ll take the gelato please!
    Lila Ferraro

    • 24. Kaylyn  |  August 7, 2014 at 7:41 am

      Thinking like that is really imrsespive

  • 25. SeattleDee  |  December 14, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    Elissa, this post brought a smile to my face and a few tears to my eyes. Thank you for my holiday treat.

    I’ll wager that your family is every bit as anxious as you for the next three days to pass. Enjoy the holidays, and catch up on your sleep in between the wonderful moments with family and friends.

  • 26. Stephanie  |  December 15, 2010 at 12:44 am

    aww what a sweet letter to your parents. Plus the photos are making me sad about my freezer being so empty

  • 27. Rosanna  |  December 15, 2010 at 5:10 am

    Hey Elissa, I’ve just finished my first term at university in England and can’t tell you how good it is to be home and catching up with sleep, eating good food and spending time with my family…but I’m starting to miss uni again already!

  • 28. Kelly Hartnett  |  December 15, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    I have three children ages 17-19 and I can assure you there is now no need to buy your parents any presents.

  • 29. Karen  |  December 15, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Elissa – I am the mom of a 14 year old, applying to High School. This makes me realize how swiftly I will be in your parents’ shoes, waiting patiently until my daughter comes home for the holidays after her first semester at college. Enjoy this time of your life and know that your parents raised you to go away, become independent and successful – and are still home, loving you and supporting you in all you do (and a bit wistful about it as well.)

  • 30. Margarita  |  December 15, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    Happy to see your post. I missed it. You’ve got a great family, so much love. It’s refreshing to hear about a loving family. I love sherbet and that picture with the ice crystals is magical. I can almost feel the creamy texture and taste it’s sweetness. Yummy!!!!!!!!!!

  • 31. Stacey  |  December 15, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    wow, such an awesome post. makes me want to be a better daughter and person :) also, now i have to try the nougat. my dad saw it on food network so maybe that’s what i will get him for christmas. i always go to mike’s pastry but will try modern since you wrote so passionately about it.

  • 32. Geni - Sweet and Crumby  |  December 16, 2010 at 12:54 am

    I keep wondering how you made these in a dorm. I am so glad you get to go home…or are home by now! Enjoy your family and your kitchen! :)

  • 33. Monica H  |  December 16, 2010 at 3:02 am

    These look great together. I’ve always loved pistachio gelato so I’l have to make this!

  • 34. retro sweets  |  December 16, 2010 at 6:31 am

    Excellent writing! I now regret I ignoring your link many times. Such a sweet letter. It made me remember the times when my mom and i used to write to each other. She’s the reason I love pistachios so much. I’ll make one of these in her memory.

  • 35. Becca@Baking Monster  |  December 16, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    This is so sweet Elissa! You sond like your having a amazing time working hard. This gelato looks great!

  • 36. Kimberly  |  December 16, 2010 at 11:24 pm


    I love reading your blog. Like others have said, you write beautifully and your photography is amazing.

    My third semester is currently ending and I can’t wait to get home and bake some of your creations (especially that Pumpkin Bread w/the Cream Cheese Swirl!).

    Enjoy your stay at home!

    PS – I also went to Modern Pastry in Boston for the first time with my boyfriend about a month ago! Now I have to go back and try the nougat!

  • 37. Cousin Sharon  |  December 18, 2010 at 8:35 am

    I see dad didn’t leave a comment, am sure he and your mom were too overwhelmed for words. You are so articulate and gifted! Enjoy your time at home Elissa.

  • 38. Rachie  |  December 19, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    Wow, another amazing entry. You just write so well and your photos are so great.

    That’s probably why you’re so dang popular. :P I’m still trying to get my blog up off the ground, but it’s getting a bit better.

    I would still love for you to check it out and let me know what you think.

    If you don’t have the time, I understand. College takes a lot out of you.

    Well, Happy Baking!
    <3 Rachel

  • 39. Melissa Towne  |  December 21, 2010 at 12:13 am

    This is the sweetest post ever! Your parents are lucky to have such a loving and sweet daughter. Seriously, who ever appreciates their parents like this at age 18? You’re breaking records girl!

  • 40. Kevin  |  December 21, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Hi, I’ve read your blog every now and then, and I just wanted to say that you are certainly very gifted at both writing and baking. I just graduated from college, so I can kinda relate to your experiences, though I went to schools (I transferred after my sophomore year) much closer to home than yours. Enjoy your undergraduate years; if you happen to go to graduate school (as I have), it’s much more stressful with not nearly as much leisure time. Happy holidays!

    Oh, and as for the reason why I stopped by your site this time: I was looking for a good gingersnap/gingerbread cookie recipe, and I saw that you deemed your gingersnaps as the “best cookies ever.” I’ll take your word for it :)

  • 41. deeba@PAB  |  December 26, 2010 at 8:25 am

    Hung on to every word you wrote. How articulate and evocative you are. Love your expression…and of course the delicious combination of my favourite nuts, pistachios, and this beautiful berry! {We don’t get blackberries in India, so I am hugely envious!} Girl, you are good! happy Holidays!

  • 42. Kelsey  |  December 27, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    This post is so beautifully written. I, too, went all the way across the country to study journalism. It was an exciting time, but also a big adjustment being away from my mom. You’ve put those complex emotions into words perfectly. You certainly have a gift for food and writing. What a fantastic future you have ahead of you!

  • 43. Madison  |  December 27, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    This is touching. Another post that pulls on my heart strings for sure.

  • 44. Andrea [bella eats]  |  January 4, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    Such a sweet post! Your writing is lovely, thank you for sharing such a big piece of yourself.

  • 45. Jessica  |  January 9, 2011 at 3:00 am

    You are such a breath of fresh air. :)

  • 46. Chanel C  |  January 30, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    It is so sweet that you take time and dedicate this blog post to your parents. It truly inspires me to spend more time with my parents now, before I regret it later in the future.

  • 47. Katie  |  January 31, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    Elissa, as another young lady who enjoys cooking and is passionate about family and is from the Boston area, I enjoy what you have to offer and am thankful you do so. Thank you for sharing your recipes, adventures and talents. I wish we were all committed and brave enough to share these things in life and I admire you for it.
    Senorita, I have a feeling you belong on a different type of blog site. Why bother saying a thing or reading anything if you don’t have anything nice to say? Wishing someone had taught you more manners.

  • 48. Lexie  |  March 29, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    This post is definitely one of my favorites for the sole reason that I can relate to what you are going through. I am currently finishing up me Senior year of high school, and I am certain that I will encounter the things that you speak of above (late nights, power naps, endless studying, etc.). I can already see my hectic schedule overpowering my daily phone calls, constant visits, and so on, but I admire how you find time to continue doing the things that make you, well, you. Your love for your parents and family is a beautiful thing, and your willingness for life’s adventures is without a doubt something that many others yearn for.

  • […] Pistachio Gelato (slightly tweaked from 17 and Baking) […]

  • 50. foodfaithandfinds  |  December 4, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    This gelato was SOO delicious. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  • 51. Books and Cooks  |  June 16, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    […] Blackberry Creamsicle Sherbet (from 17 and Baking) […]

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  • […] Blackberry Creamsicle Sherbet (from 17 and Baking) […]

  • 54. Thurstine Hinsz  |  January 9, 2020 at 5:43 pm

    Then why did u put the blackberry one there if u don’t have the recipe?


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Elissa Bernstein

I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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