This post is about to get vulnerable and honest, so if you don’t care about my feels and just want glorious, glorious ice cream, scroll down to the recipe. It’s okay, sometimes other people being open makes me uncomfortable, too.
I’ve been pretty negligent of the blog the last few weeks because I was having a blog identity crisis. Possibly a personal identity crisis, too. Since I’m 26, I think it may also qualify as a quarter-life crisis. That’s a lot of crises all at once! It all started when I decided it was time for a logo upgrade. I contacted the incredibly talented Sanwal Deen with very firm ideas about what I thought I wanted and attached a logo mock-up that I later decided I hated and described as “Cracker-Barrely.” It was really, really bad. He came back with several options for me, including the gorgeous logo up top. But I owe him for a lot more than just a design.
Sanwal started his process by asking me some questions about Sift & Whisk, in which he suggested I think of my blog as a person. I had no idea that this exercise would cause so much inner turmoil! Branding a blog is different from branding a company because a blog’s identity is essentially your own identity. If you want to have a blog with any kind of integrity, you have to put your own heart and soul into every aspect of it. But if you don’t have a strong sense of self or are uncomfortable with who you are, it’s very difficult to let your blog reflect your personality.
My personal style is all about clean, functional lines, but in my photography and my food, I like to get messy, dirty, and dark. On the other hand, I prefer to write conversationally and with humor most of the time. I’ve struggled with the feeling that my writing should be more somber and emotive to match my photography, or that my photos should be more whimsical and bright to match my writing. I viewed this contradiction of style as a personal flaw. It seemed to me that I had three different people living in my body (and in my blog), warring for dominance.
When I talked to my younger sister about this identity crisis, she said that what I’m seeing as personal flaws aren’t flaws, they’re just who I am. That I don’t have to be pigeonholed into a category, that my inconsistencies are what make me human. She is right, of course, but I had never thought of it that way. It occurred to me that my whole life I’ve been trying to put myself into different molds and constantly feeling like a failure or a poseur because I don’t neatly fit into any one of them. The realization that my identity can be multifaceted and variable is both terrifying and freeing. I feel that the new logo and site design reflect all sides of my character: the sleek and the sloppy, the elegant and the eccentric.
So all of this soul-searching and redesigning brought me back around to thinking about my blog and why I started it. I went back and opened up a notebook entry I wrote when I was pondering starting Sift & Whisk, over two years ago. Under the header “REASONS WHY I’M STARTING A FOOD BLOG” I had written:
1. to try more new recipes and expand my baking skills
2. to connect with others with similar interests
3. to share my love of dessert, writing, photography, and design
In trying to expand my blog over the past two years, I lost sight of my goals of personal growth. I found myself on the food blogger hamster wheel of trying to keep up with food holidays and to increase unique pageviews. I stopped taking the time to study photography, and my skills stagnated. I frequently played it safe with my recipes and my writing so I could continue with a rigid posting schedule, because missing a post would obviously be the kiss of death for my blog.
I’ve missed more and more posts since becoming a mother in July. Sometimes that’s because motherhood is hard, but more often it’s because motherhood is wonderful. Sometimes I would rather crawl around on the carpet with my son or take him to the zoo than be in the kitchen or writing a blog entry. I feel guilty about days when I don’t post, because this blog is almost like my other child. You can’t neglect one just because a new one comes along (or so I’ve heard; I’m no parenting expert). But I would feel more guilty if I didn’t cherish every possible moment with my son.
I’m gradually and clumsily learning to balance my identities as a blogger and a mother, and I think the key is returning to my blogging roots and original intentions. I’m trying to write more authentically, as all writers should. I’m no longer worrying about trying to “one up” the humor of my last post, because last year I started to feel like a maniacal dancing monkey. I need to get back in touch with my real emotions (happy and otherwise) and write them down. I’m also trying to write with less fear. I am always afraid of offending people, of losing a certain reader demographic, of my grandmother not loving me anymore because I drop an F-bomb. But going through your whole life walking on eggshells is exhausting and unfulfilling.
I totally needed this respite to reassess and think about what I want for my future and the future of Sift & Whisk. I’ve come away from this identity crisis with a renewed passion for baking (I’ve jotted down about 15 recipe ideas in the past few days), photography (I’m studying the ins-and-outs of my new Nikon D610 camera and 85mm lens), and honest writing. And with that renewed sense of purpose comes a new blog design, a new logo, and a new beginning, just as the flowers are starting to poke their heads out from the thawing earth.
Thank you for reading. Now have some ice cream. ♥
- ½ cup (70 grams) shelled, unsalted pistachios (plus up to ½ cup more if you want whole nuts mixed in to your ice cream)
- 3 tablespoons (40 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (11 grams) cornstarch
- 2 cups (280 mL) whole milk, divided
- 1¼ cups (300 mL) heavy cream
- ⅔ cup (135 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons (40 grams) light corn syrup
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- Gallon-size freezer bag
- Ice cream maker (I use this one)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread all of the pistachios onto a small baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8-10 minutes, until fragrant and beginning to brown. Measure out ½ cup (70 grams) of the nuts and pour them into the bowl of a food processor. Process beyond finely chopped, until the oils release from the nuts and a thick paste forms. Scrape the paste out into a large mixing bowl. Whisk the paste together with corn starch and salt until smooth. (It will be pretty thick, so you'll probably need to press the mixture out of the whisk a few times.)
- In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of the milk until smooth. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice and water and place it in the refrigerator.
- In a large saucepan (at least 4-quart capacity; I used a 6-quart stock pot), add the remaining milk, cream, sugar, and corn syrup. Bring the milk mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 4 minutes, timing accurately, then remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the cornstarch slurry, then return the pan to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for about 1 minute, stirring with a rubber spatula, until mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat.
- Slowly pour the hot milk mixture into the bowl with the pistachio paste, whisking until smooth.
- Roll down the top of the freezer bag to make a "cuff" and prop up the bag in a bowl. Carefully pour the ice cream base into the freezer bag, then unroll the cuff and seal the bag. Remove the bowl of ice water from the refrigerator and place the sealed freezer bag into the ice water. Let the ice cream base chill in the ice bath for 30 minutes, replenishing the ice about halfway through.
- When ready to churn, tilt the ice cream base away from one corner of the freezer bag, snip off the corner with a pair of scissors, and pour into the bowl of your ice cream maker. Turn on the ice cream maker and add the almond extract through the top of the machine. Churn the ice cream until it pulls away from the side of the bowl and is a soft-serve consistency, about 20-25 minutes.
- Quickly dollop the ice cream into a storage container, layering with the remaining roasted pistachios, if you're using them. Press a sheet of parchment paper against the surface of the ice cream, squishing out any air pockets. Seal the storage container and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.
- The second time I made this, I threw the seeds of half a vanilla bean into the milk mixture. And then I ate it with homemade salted caramel sauce. It wasn't the worst idea.