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Palace City Pie competition sliced to four

Pies await judging in the Palace City Prize Pies round of eight Thursday afternoon at The Daily Republic. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)1 / 2
Sean Moen, director of food services for the Mitchell School District and owner of OverTime Steakhouse and Lounge, tastes an apple pie during the Palace City Prize Pies round-of-eight judging Thursday afternoon at The Daily Republic. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)2 / 2

The competition was cut in half during the second round of the Palace City Prize Pies contest Thursday at The Daily Republic.

Five judges evaluated eight pies in four rounds. Winners were Rita Baumgart, of Mitchell, with a glazed apple cream pie; Bonny Sperlich-Warnke, of Mitchell, with an apple pie; Sharon Christensen, of Mitchell, with a Snicker pie; and Marlys Paulsen, of Ethan, with a sour cream raisin pie.

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They will advance to the next round, which will be judged Sept. 19 at The Daily Republic. Three of the four winners, Paulsen, Sperlich-Warnke and Christensen, said they used familiar favorites for the contest.

"I have two teenage boys and that is their favorite pie ever," said Christensen of her Snicker pie, a rich, creamy concoction topped with candy extras.

Paulsen said she used to make her sour cream raisin pie when she worked at the old Randall's grocery store, and it was always a hit with people. Still, she was pleasantly surprised to discover she won because "there are so many good ones."

"If you're on a diet, I'd suggest you don't eat it," she added with a chuckle.

Sperlich-Warnke said her apple pie recipe -- the only strictly apple-based pie in the contest so far -- was passed down from her grandmother.

"I did it because nobody did one last week," she said.

The other apple-pie baker, Baumgart, said she wanted to try something using apples to reflect the fall season, and she wanted to try something different. Her granddaughter was her taste tester in the practice rounds.

"I'm so happy," she said. "My granddaughter will be so happy."

This week's pie selection, though smaller, still ranged from the traditional apple to a stuffed crust strawberry cream, an apple bacon streusel and a caramel apple pie cake -- a pie literally baked inside of a cake.

Contest rules simply dictate each contestant bake a pie; contestants may not use the same pie twice as they advance through the first three rounds, although they will be allowed to use an earlier recipe for the championship round.

The first week's pie matchups were randomly chosen, with winners advancing through a bracketed format. Judges did not know who baked which pie until after results were announced. Pies were judged on five categories: appearance, filling/crust, flavor/taste appeal and originality/presentation. Each pie could earn a total of 500 points.

Judges were Sean Moen, food services director for the Mitchell School District and owner of OverTime Steakhouse and Lounge; Laura Senska, an advertising and marketing consultant at The Daily Republic and a culinary school graduate; Seth Tupper, editor of The Daily Republic; Megan Sabers, owner of Tickled Pink; and Korrie Wenzel, publisher of The Daily Republic.

Judges repeatedly commented on the high quality of this week's entries, and expected next week's to progress even further.

"If this is any indication of where we're going in the next couple of weeks, we're in for some really great pies," Wenzel said.

The first-place winner will receive $400 cash, a $50 gift card from OverTime Steakhouse, a $50 gift card from Little Red Hen and a six-month subscription to The Daily Republic.

Second place will receive $75 cash and a $50 gift card from Bonnie's DeKor, and third and fourth places each will receive $50. All contestants received $25 for entering.

Sixteen businesses are sponsoring the contest. The four major sponsors are Central Electric Cooperative, Tickled Pink, Mitchell Technical Institute and The Daily Republic.

Each contestant is paired with a sponsoring business. The business whose baker wins will receive free advertising in The Daily Republic.