I and countless carb-loving north west Londoners were kvelling this week for Tami Isaacs Pearce. Tami is the bubbly owner and head baker of Karma Bread and had announced that she’d won a World Bread Award for the second year running. Plus she’d won more than one award!
I’ve been a fan since 2013, when I first tasted the sublime challah she baked and sold in her home kitchen back then. The mini fressers are also fans as a visit to Tami’s invariably meant leaving with a sweet treat in their mitts. She also had a dog with the same name as my son — my fault for giving my boy a dog name. (And no he's not called Fido - it's also a lovely boy name.)
In 2015, she opened Karma Bread in Hampstead’s South End Green, which meant (a) fewer trips to pick up her delicious challah as she’d moved too far to justify the time; and (b) a much bigger audience to enjoy her baking. You’ll find the full story of her rise (geddit) to fame here.
I spoke to her a few days after the ceremony: “They told me I was a finalist but I didn’t think I’d won it as I won last year!”
The loaf that snagged first place in the Tiptree Showstopper award year’s winning loaf was a 3kg challah shaped as the tree of life. “It’s the third year I’ve submitted my tree of life, but each year I’ve made it with a different dough. This year, it was a Tzanhong dough — a Chinese method.”
It’s actually the third year she has sent in a tree of life. She’s a spiritual sort of a gal (read about her relationship with bread here) and the tree holds some symbolic value for her— “It’s prominent in Kabbalah and Buddha sat under the Bo tree [of life] when he gained enlightenment.” It’s also the Karma bread logo.
This year the loaf was a Challah Queen Tzanhong Orange Blossom Challah. “The Tzanhong method involves making a roux out of a portion of the dough and it changes the dough completely. It has a feathery consistency and the rise is incredible and the moisture in the loaf is also amazing.”
She’d flavoured her challah dough with Tiptree orange blossom honey, some orange zest and a little Valencian orange extract. “It was inspired by a painting” she told me.
Isaacs Pearce’s Karma Bread also won a bronze award in the Real Bread Campaign category for its chia sesame semolina sourdough, but the award which she was super proud of is the merit award for technical innovation and creativity: “That was very special” she smiles. “It’s such an honour to get that award.”
Sadly, even a visit to her home won’t get me a taste of that winning Tzanhong Orange Blossom honey. “It takes five hours to make so you can’t do it commercially” she explained. If you want a go at making your own, check out the how-to video I made with the fabulous Tami. Or better still, Tami now offers evening baking classes at the store. You may not get to make a Tzanhong dough, but perfect challah may be yours.