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Home of Economy-Herald baker Alexandra Lunseth: Easy Bake Oven sparked a lifelong interest in baking

Lunseth, of Manvel, is sponsored by Northern Roots Boutique, of Grand Forks.

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Alexandra Lunseth, of Manvel, is one of the 16 bakers competing in the Home of Economy-Grand Forks Herald Pie Bake-off.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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MANVEL, N.D. – Alexandra Lunseth was “very, very young” when she first became interested in cooking and baking.

“Even though I had dolls and other things to play with, I would literally ask my parents for baking stuff as a small child,” Lunseth said.

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“When I was about 7 or 8 years old, for my birthday in September, I got an Easy Bake Oven,” she said, “and I kind of scoffed at my parents and I was like, are you kidding me, and they go, what? And I said, 'well, I need flour, I need sugar and I need eggs. I don’t need a light-bulb oven with pre-made mix.'

“So then that December they bought me flour, sugar, eggs, milk, everything that I needed to be able to cook,” she said. “And one of the first things I created was an apple pie.”

She and her father, Gary McClaflin, had planted apple trees in their backyard.

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“And I would actually use the crust recipe that my grandmother had in her Better Homes and Gardens cookbook – that my dad says I can have when he dies,” she said, laughing. “It has her handwriting in it, it has her smudges, her butter fingerprints, and it is so special to me. And her pie crust recipe is just the best.”

That was Grandma Eleanor McClaflin, of Grand Forks.

“So every year we would make apple pies, and I went through some failures, some successes – knowing the water content of your apples is really important if you don’t want a soggy bottom,” she said. “So it was just trial and error for many, many years.”

Lunseth is among 16 bakers selected for the Greater Grand Forks Pie Bake-off tournament, sponsored by Home of Economy and the Grand Forks Herald. Her business sponsor is Northern Roots Boutique, a locally owned Grand Forks clothing store.

The bracketed contest, which begins Aug. 22 and runs for four weeks, is intended to highlight the best pie bakers in the area. The first-place winner will take home a prize worth at least $1,000.

Lunseth credits her father, and his love for cooking, for inspiring her.

“We had this small, little 13-inch tube TV in the kitchen and we would watch Julie Child together. It was awesome,” she said. “And we would mimic the way she spoke as we were cooking.”

Her favorite pie is pumpkin, she said, “and pecan – I think a good pecan pie is important in everyone’s life.

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“And then, apple – but I’m kind of an odd duck: I like apple pie with a slice of cheese on top, like a sharp cheddar. That contrast with the salty sweet and creamy, it’s just so good.”

What she enjoys most about baking is “it’s just so relaxing, it’s methodical – it’s my therapy, to be honest,” she said.

Lunseth, who stepped down recently as Mrs. North Dakota America 2021, decided to enter the contest because of her lifelong interest in baking and cooking.

Her husband, Chris, and their four children, ranging in age from 5 to 13, have been “very constructive with criticism” over the years, she said.

“You’ve got to have multiple taste-testers, right?”

Related Topics: GFH PIESGFH INSTAGRAM
Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at pknudson@gfherald.com or (701) 780-1107.
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