13 ways to trick people into thinking your store-bought pie is homemade

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderPie is a holiday staple.
  • Insider asked chefs, foodies, and bakers to share their best tips for making store-bought pie taste better.
  • Melting butter or cheese on top can balance out overly sweet pies.
  • You can decorate your dessert with a designed dusting of powdered sugar or frosted lettering to make it look fancy.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

When you don’t have the time or inclination to whip up a homemade dessert, grabbing a premade pie at the store is often the next best thing — but there’s no need to sacrifice flavour or presentation.

Insider asked professional chefs, foodies, and bakers how to dress up a store-bought pie so that it tastes and looks like the gourmet alternative.

Read on for 13 easy ways to upgrade your premade pies.

Make an herbed caramel sauce to add a gourmet flair to a store-bought pie.

Charles Brutlag/ShuttershockA drizzle of caramel can elevate your dessert.

Professional baker and winner of TLC’s “Cake Boss: Next Great Baker” Dana Herbert told Insider that he recommends adding an herbed caramel sauce to ready-made pies.

“Add some cinnamon, rosemary, thyme, ginger, or cardamom to warm caramel sauce and serve it with the pie,” Herbert said. “Even traditionally savoury herbs can complement sweet desserts.”

If you’re not sure whether a particular herb would pair well with your pie, Herbert recommended closing your eyes and smelling the herb or spice – if you can detect something sweet in the scent, it’s probably OK to use.

Pop your store-bought pie out of its packaging to make it look homemade.

Animas Photography / ShutterstockTake your pie out of the store’s packaging so it doesn’t look pre-made.

Alexandra Lourdes, co-owner of Saint Honouré Doughnuts & Beignets, told Insider that the easiest way to elevate a store-bought pie is to simply remove it from its original packaging.

“Make sure you take it out of the box it came in,” Lourdes said. “If you place it in a new box, add a ribbon, or arrange it on a beautiful cake stand, no one will ever know it’s not homemade.”

Top blueberry or cherry pie with a dollop of lemon curd.

Romix Image/ShuttershockYou can either make your lemon curd or buy it from the store.

Introducing some lemon flavour can add complexity to and elevate the taste of a premade berry pie.

“Make a super tangy lemon curd with lemon juice and plenty of zest,” Herbert said. “The sourness will cut through some of the excessive sweetness found in store-bought blueberry and cherry pies.”

If you don’t have time to make your own lemon curd, you can buy some from the grocery store and stir in a bit of fresh lemon juice and rind.

Melt butter on top for extra richness.

Business Insider VideoOnly add a tablespoon or two of butter at a time to taste.

Kevin Cabrera, corporate executive chef at The Save Mart Companies, told Insider that melting a bit of butter on top of a ready-made pie can help give it a homemade richness.

“Halfway through warming your pie, directly insert thin slices of butter into the venting slits of the pie,” Cabrera said. “This will give it a nice, moist flavour.”

Adding too much butter might oversaturate the pie and lead to a soggy crust, so start with a tablespoon or two, and add more if necessary.

Sprinkle on some salt to balance overly sweet pies.

SEAGULL_L/ShuttershockAdding salt can save your pie from tasting too sweet.

Carlo Lamagna, chef and Magna PDX owner, told Insider that a dose of salt can help tone down the sweetness in syrupy pies.

“Salt helps accentuate flavours and balances out often overly sweet items,” Lamagna said.

If you don’t want to sprinkle pure salt on your dessert, you can opt for crushed salted nuts, like peanuts or cashews, which will still do the trick and add extra texture.

Melt cheese onto your apple-pie crust.

Rachel Askinasi/InsiderYou can add cheese to apple pie for a Midwestern take.

If you feel like taking some culinary risks, Lamagna suggested mixing up a classic store-bought apple pie by adding some sliced or shredded cheese.

“I grew up in the Midwest, so we would always melt a slice of cheddar on the top of apple pies,” Lamagna said. “Don’t be afraid to experiment with unconventional pairings.”

Moderation is key to pulling off cheesy apple pie – don’t layer on too much cheese, or you’ll end up with an oily, salty crust.

Serve your pie with homemade whipped cream.

excursionista.net/ShutterstockAll you need to make whipped cream is heavy cream and powdered sugar.

Chef and sommelier Melissa Smith told Insider that serving a pre-made pie with fresh whipped cream is a great way to make the dessert taste and look gourmet.

“If you have a whisk, heavy cream, powdered sugar, and a piping bag, go ahead and pipe whipped cream onto the pie,” Smith said. “This always looks modern and classy, like something straight out of a magazine.”

For bonus points, Smith recommended garnishing the piped cream with a few flakes of edible gold or a smattering of citrus zest.

A light dusting of powdered sugar is a fast way to dress up your pie.

FabriZiock/ShutterstockDust some powdered sugar on your pie for an elevated look and extra touch of sweetness.

Instead of making your own fresh whipped cream, you can just grab a spoonful of powdered sugar.

“A simple dusting of powdered sugar can really make your pie look more appetizing than if you simply served it bare and straight out of the container,” Smith said.

For flawless presentation, use a sieve to ensure an even coating of sugar and a stencil for clean and clear designs.

Add homemade lettering on top for a personal touch.

Staniela R. Nikolova/ShuttershockPiped frosting can be a nice touch on a store-bought pie.

Just because your pie came straight from the grocery store doesn’t mean it needs to look generic.

“I’d add homemade lettering to the pie to make it your own,” Lourdes said. “You can also add gold flakes or edible food glitter to make a statement.”

You can simply add your chosen phrase using frosting, but Lourdes also suggested making chocolate letters at home with silicone molds.

Top with ice cream for a pleasing temperature mix.

MSPhotographic/ShuttershockIce cream goes well with pies that are traditionally served warm.

If you’re serving a pie that’s meant to be enjoyed warm, adding a scoop of high-quality ice cream can enhance the taste.

“Hot and cold foods are a dynamic pair,” Cabrera said. “After warming it up, serve the pie with a generous scoop of slow-churned ice cream for a delectable dessert.”

Cabrera noted that you can’t go wrong with vanilla ice cream, but you can also opt for rich chocolate or a fruity sorbet.

Turn your treat into a pie milkshake.

Larry Crowe/APYou can blend leftover pie to make milkshakes.

If you have a blender, you can turn leftover or slightly stale pie into a scrumptious milkshake.

“Take a quarter of the pie and blend it with some vanilla ice cream and milk,” Smith said. “Be sure to gently pulse it so that you end up with chunks of pie, not a completely smooth blend.”

To make slurping this concoction a bit easier, serve with an extra-wide straw that will allow the pie pieces to flow through. You can also add a splash of whiskey or flavored liquor for more flavour and fun.

Sprinkle some bacon bits on top of your pie for a savoury kick.

ShutterstockAdding bacon to your pies can result in a delicious sweet and savoury combination.

If you love marrying salty and sweet, adding a light dusting of bacon pieces to your pie might be a mouthwatering move.

“The perfect way to improve an apple or peach pie is to grab your favourite bacon, cook it up, and toss it on the pie,” Herbert said.

For a Southern-inspired dessert, Herbert suggested using bourbon-flavored bacon to add savoury flair to a pecan pie.

Add fresh fruit to cream pies.

AS Food studio/ShuttershockDifferent fruits go well with specific flavours of pie.

You can liven up drab cream pies by topping them with chopped fresh fruit for added texture and colour.

“Find a fruit that would complement the type of cream pie you purchased,” Lamagna said. “Cherries tend to go well with chocolate cream, and coconut works with banana cream.”

Other tasty combos include peaches with vanilla cream, raspberries with lime cream, and banana with peanut-butter cream.

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