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For autumn flavor, apples are natural winners. The finalists in the fourth annual Apple Dessert Contest on Sunday, Oct. 14, at the St. Charles Builders Home and Remodeling Show had the perfect recipes for showing off the fruit's flavor.

Joyce LaJeunesse, of St. Peters, who won a blue ribbon for an apple-cranberry tart served with hot buttered rum sauce, likes to combine three varieties — Granny Smith, Jonathan and McIntosh — in her baking.

Caramel-apple pie accented Jonathan apples that Lisa Rapp, of South St. Louis County, picks every year. Diane Disbrow, of Collinsville, packed Granny Smiths into sugar-free, old-fashioned apple pie, her family's favorite birthday treat. Their pies captured second and third place, respectively, in the pie category.

Others participants in the category were Carol Grosz, of Chesterfield, with caramel crunch apple pie, and Toni Malone, of St. Louis, who sweetened outlooks with her creamy-sweet variation of taffy apple pizza with a cookie crust.

Among desserts, a variety of apple cakes tickled the judges' fancy.

Felicia Baker, of O'Fallon, Mo., spiced up her adaptation of Miss Margie's apple cake with lemon. Her long-time favorite church potluck dessert garnered a blue ribbon. Candace Kirkman, of O'Fallon, Ill., highlighted caramel apple cake with sugared walnuts in and on top for a second-place finish. Roberta Ossenfort, of Arnold, garnished her cake with a brown sugar glaze for third place.

Rounding out desserts were baked apple crisps, a family favorite recipe Shirley Busse, of South St. Louis County, began making long ago from a magazine; easy-to-make magic apple cobbler from Barbara Byassee, of O'Fallon, Mo., and apple rolls, which Carol Filla, of South St. Louis County, likes to make with Granny Smith apples.

Jerry Mills, one of the contest judges and owner of Mills Apple Farm in Marine, said Granny Smith is the variety still clinging to his trees this season.

"They are great keepers," he said. "Heat and oxygen are the enemies of apples, so they will keep for months if kept cool in a refrigerator crisper in a plastic bag that is partially open."

Other judges with friendly taste buds for apple desserts were Jackie Brock, of St. Louis Cardinals family fame; Jason Givens, event manager, and Roland Scheller, executive chef, of St. Charles Convention Center, and Jennifer Wood, publisher of Suburban Journals.

Each participant received gift cards and a book from the sponsors: Home Builders Association of St. Louis and Eastern Missouri, Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis and STLMomsandDads. All the finalists' recipes are available online at suburbanjournals.stltoday.com.