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Finalists named in Palace City Prize Pies baking contest

The Final Four pies await their fates during round three of the Palace City Prize Pies contest Thursday at The Daily Republic. Next week’s contest will determine the overall winner. (Candy DenOuden/The Daily Republic)

And then there were two. Finalists in the Palace City Prize Pies contest were determined during round three of the contest Thursday at The Daily Republic. Winners were Bonny Sperlich-Warnke, of Mitchell, with a pineapple cream pie, and Sharon Christensen, of Mitchell, with an apple toffee pie.

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They will advance to the final round on Sept. 26 at The Daily Republic.

Sperlich-Warnke said her pineapple cream pie is her own creation, the result of a friend SPERLICH- asking her to make him a WARNKE pineapple pie.

“I said, ‘Well, I’ve never made one,’ ” she said. “But I said, ‘All right, I’ll try.’ ”

After a few tries and tweaks, Sperlich-Warnke said she finally concocted the winning recipe about a year ago. As she advances to the final round, Sperlich-Warnke said she’s not yet sure what to make.

“I’m having a lot of fun with it,” she said.

Christensen said she hadn’t made her apple toffee pie until a few weeks ago, when a colleague found it and used it at Countryside Living. Christensen, who is the dietary manager at Countryside Living, said the residents there love to be guinea pigs for new recipes.

“We do a lot of home cooking here,” Christensen said. “We’re always looking for new recipes we can try out for the residents. This was just one.”

Though Christensen said she had to tweak the recipe a little — it was too runny the first time — the flavor won her over.

“Apple crisp is my favorite dessert of all time, and that’s what this pie kind of reminded me of,” she said. “So I just kind of fell in love with it when I tried it.”

Five judges evaluated the pies at The Daily Republic. 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 Sports Bar; 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 Luke Hagen, assistant editor of The Daily Republic.

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

This week’s pie selection included more novelty items, including cream cheese pecan and pumpkin cream, and Moen said he has been continually amazed at the creations people bring.

“It’s been an amazing competition so far,” Moen said. “The most surprising has been the flavors people have come up with that I never would have thought of.”

Moen, who said this is his first time judging a contest like this, said he also likes the head-tohead format of the competition, and looks forward to next week.

“There’s been a lot of hard work put into what appear to be family recipes,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”

The first-place winner will receive $400 cash, a $50 gift card from OverTime Steakhouse and Sports Bar, 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 received $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.