Want to know how to make a great pie?
Ask Pie Girl.
Chelsea Frost, a 34-year-old Hightstown baker has been wowing New Jersey pie lovers for the past six years with her unique, farm-fresh creations like salted honey lavender, chocolate-covered strawberry, cranberry chess and sweet corn custard. She sells them at local pop-ups and by home delivery; Pie Girl is an online business only.
According to Pie Girl, to make great pies, don’t dally with anything other than butter (“Butter makes everything better,” Frost said); use real sugar (“No fake sugar; sugar is my weakness”); and add salt (“Salt will bring out any flavor). Also, freeze your dough right after rolling (“It helps hold its shape a lot better”). And for goodness sake, don’t rush the process.
“A lot of care goes into making a pie. It takes time.”
Loving making pies is a necessary ingredient too.
“I love it,” Frost said. “Making pies is my hobby.”
A hobby Frost, a mother of two, turned into a career by chance.
While Frost always loved to cook and bake — “I grew up in the kitchen with my mom,” she said — it was only six years ago that she started working at farm-to-table restaurant 12 Farms in Hightstown, “so I can be a human, not just a mom.”
Just before Thanksgiving, her boss asked her to make desserts for the holiday. “He had heard that I liked to bake.”
“I started very traditional,” she said, “making pumpkin, apple, chocolate pecan.”
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The pies were a huge success, so she began to make them on the side, too.
“It started minimal, maybe 30 pies the first year, but the business grew exponentially every year,” Frost said.
The pie selections grew too.
She comes up with ideas depending on what’s growing on New Jersey’s farms and what she’s got at home.
During corn season, she offers a bright yellow buttermilk-based custard pie laced with pureed fresh Jersey corn. “It tastes like a New Jersey summer,” she said. “I’m really proud of it.”
When she had 10 bunches of fresh mint on hand, she steeped the mint in black tea with cream and ended up with Sun Tea pie. “It is such a delight,” she said. “It tastes like a big glass of iced tea in custard.”
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When beets were at the ready, she used them to produce brown sugar beet custard that made for a stunningly beautiful pie that even beet haters ended up loving.
And then there’s her bestseller: salted honey lavender pie. “It’s made with local honey and has big flakes of salt on top,” she said. “And it has lavender in it. It’s not soapy or perfumy.”
It is, however, “delicious,” said Thomas Pizzonia, baker at Almost Home General, a popular coffee shop in Lincroft.
“Her pies are unique,” Pizzonia added. “She comes up with interesting flavor combinations.” Even for traditional pies, including pumpkin pie.
“How many people really love pumpkin pie?” Frost said. “If there’s a least favorite pie, pumpkin pie has got to be it.”
So, she tweaked it — and added a caramel topping. As a result, Pizzonia said, “she brought pumpkin pie back into my life.” (It should go without saying that her pumpkin filling does not come out of a can but is farm-bought, roasted and pureed by Frost.)
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James Beard-award semifinalist Matthew Rosenzweig of The Baker’s Grove in Shrewsbury is a fan too. He offers his pies at his bakeshop.
“She makes stuff that’s homemade but elevated,” Rosenzweig said. Among his favorites are the grapefruit chess pie, apple crumb pie and the rustic chocolate.
Chef-owner Leia Gaccione of South + Pine in Morristown gets Pie Girl pies for family and friends … and herself. She said, “When I had her olive cara cara pie, I couldn’t control myself. I had one slice. Then another slice. Don’t ask.”
Today, Frost sells from 50 to 70 pies per week (some 200 around the holidays) via her Instagram account where she posts her weekly offerings every Saturday and through venerated New Jersey food products supplier Harvest Drop. Her goal is to have a brick-and-mortar shop one day.
“I’ll have even more variety then,” she said.
She has already expanded to offering quiches and galettes, and eventually she hopes to offer meat pies.
But she assures never chicken pot pie.
“I hate soup,” she said. “Chicken pot pie is like soup in a pie crust. It makes me really sad.”
What makes her happy is making pies that people love. Which, she said, still manages to surprise her.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, ‘Yours is the best pie I’ve ever had,'” she said. “That makes me happy.”
Esther Davidowitz is the food editor for NorthJersey.com. For more on where to dine and drink, please subscribe today and sign up for our North Jersey Eats newsletter.