Today we get a peek at home with Hallmark couple Darren and Jodi A. Darren is our Creative Group Vice President and Jodi is a Creative Director in Hallmark Home and Gifts. Darren and Jodi both live design all day, every day, so when they moved into their new home, they chose clean lines and a limited color palette. Join them for a tour—and some fresh-baked biscuits. (Recipes included!)
We spent twenty years commuting daily from our home in rural Cass County, Missouri to our creative jobs at Hallmark, 45 minutes away in Kansas City. While we treasured our home and the support of our nearby family, it was time to try something new and venture closer to the city, with it’s accompanying convenience and culture. After nearly a year looking at houses of all styles, eras and neighborhood locations, when we walked into our current home, we just knew. This was it.
What we loved about this house initially was its unassuming, almost hidden nature. The clean lines of its late mid-century modern architecture all but disappear under a canopy of mature trees. While I know we’re thoroughly in the suburbs, the view outside the large windows off our dining area reminds me of the wooded space behind my parents’ house, and makes me feel instantly and completely at home.
Even before our move, we were finding ourselves drawn to more simple surroundings, and we had already undertaken some pretty serious mid-life editing. The thought of transitioning from a Cape Cod to a modern home accelerated the process, and the move itself gave us a good reason to be choosy about what we kept. The walls of our old home were white, but the new place called for even less color, even more white—and also a whole lot of brown and black.
We brought a number of pieces, large and small, from our old home, but we also let a lot go, and we spent months moving furniture around and bouncing ideas off of various “consultants” (a.k.a., design-minded friends—you know who you are).
I believe our departure from color and complexity is driven by our creative jobs. Working with the world’s largest, and probably most prolific, permanent staff of creative professionals, we are inundated by visual stimuli. It’s both inspiring and overwhelming. When we come home, it’s nice to encounter a pair of boys who like math and science, and an environment that features simple lines, edited color and natural materials.
A lot has changed in the past year, but some things are the same. Our eight-year-old is still happiest wielding “swords” (sticks) in the backyard. Our fifteen-year-old keeps up with friends, both old and new, via a digital network of games and crazy group texts. (Let’s not bring up our move-in week without Internet access—each of us melted down at some point.) I have a new favorite spot to get lost in a book. Darren can still be found decompressing, clicking through about a hundred open tabs on his iPad.
Another thing that hasn’t changed is our tradition of hanging out in the kitchen. Saturday mornings we’re all awake at a relatively decent hour—early enough for me to pull together a quick batch of buttermilk biscuits. (I always have their “secret” ingredient chilling in the fridge.)
They’re best hot out of the oven, with a generous pat of soft butter and a large spoonful of freezer jam. On this, everyone still agrees. And I’m pretty sure that will never change.
- 5 cups unbleached flour, measured after sifting
- 2 tsp. cream of tartar
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tbsp. kosher salt
- 1⁄2 lb. lard, chilled
- 1 1⁄4 cups cold buttermilk
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 500°.
First, whisk together cream of tartar and baking soda… and you have now made homemade baking powder! Sift and measure the flour, then add homemade baking powder and salt and whisk to thoroughly blend the dry ingredients.
Cut lard into 1” pieces and place in flour. Toss lard pieces to coat with flour and squeeze them between your fingertips until about half the lard is blended in a fine meal texture and the other half is in ½” in pieces. It’s the large pieces of fat that add to the biscuits’ flakiness. Add buttermilk and stir until the dough just begins to come together.
Knead the dough 2-3 times in the bowl to bring it into a ball. Turn the dough ball out onto a floured surface and knead 5-8 more times to bring it fully together. If there are a few straggling pieces or flakes, don’t force them in. This will overwork the dough and your biscuits will be tough and dense.
With your hands, flatten the dough into a disk. Then roll it out to ½” thick. Use a fork to poke holes, spaced about ½” apart, all the way through the rolled dough. Use a 2 ½” biscuit cutter to cut out biscuits. Do not twist the cutter in the dough. Twisting the cutter presses the edges of the dough together, creating tiny seals that keep the biscuits from rising to their fullest, fluffiest, and flakiest potential.
Place the biscuits on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Snuggle them up close to each other—but don’t let them touch. They will rise, not spread.
Put the baking sheet in the oven on the center rack. Bake 10-12 minutes, until biscuits are golden brown. Take the biscuits out of the oven and brush them with the melted butter.
Tip: From the point where you begin incorporating the lard, work as quickly as you can. Keeping the cold ingredients cold until the minute you pop the biscuits into the oven will encourage them to rise and flake.
- 3 cups peaches, peeled and cut into chunks (about 2 lb. of fruit)
- 4 ½ cups sugar
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- ¾ cup water
- 1 box fruit pectin
Prepare jam containers—wash, rinse with boiling water and dry thoroughly. I use small containers—about ½ pint. Glass or plastic will work just fine.
Finely chop or grind the peeled and cut peaches (I use a food processor) and put in a large bowl. Add sugar and lemon juice, mix well and let stand for 10 minutes. Give the fruit mixture a stir occasionally.
Stir water and pectin together in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Once boiling, continue to stir for one additional minute.
Pour contents of saucepan into fruit mixture and stir 3 minutes. (Lots of stirring!)
Fill all containers just short of ½ inch of their tops. Wipe up drips and cover with lids. Let the filled jars stand at room temperature for 24 hours, then refrigerate or freeze.
TIP: It’s important to leave space at the tops of the jars as the jam will expand when frozen. And you don’t want a run-over situation in your freezer. Trust me. I know from experience.
Download Jodi’s Buttermilk Biscuit and Peach Freezer Jam recipes here to try at home!
Photographer: Jane Kortright