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More than 1,700 customers from around the country submitted ideas for a kolache filling, and the winner of them all is from the St. Louis area.

Abby Benz took the top prize in the Create a New Kolache contest sponsored by Kolache Factory, a chain restaurant with locations in nine states. As a prize, she is eligible for a free kolache and a small coffee every day for the next year.

A kolache is a filled pastry — either sweet or savory — that is popular in Eastern Europe. Benz's prize-winning entry is called a Kolache Kristo, which is based on a monte cristo sandwich. Her version fills a kolache with ham, turkey, Swiss cheese and raspberry jam, dusted with powdered sugar.

Benz owns Spoil Me Sweetly, a bakery specializing in wedding cakes and other celebratory cakes and cupcakes.

Daniel Neman is a food writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.