St Louis Suburban Journal: Valentine’s Day Treats


By Janice Denham | Posted: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 12:00 am

Jane Muscroft, of Queen’s Cuisine, said Valentine’s Day was more for secret admirers than everyday loves during her school years in England.
“Every year you waited and hoped you would receive a card from one,” said the native of Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, famous for pork pies and Stilton cheese.

Her mum reports that England is catching up on romantic traditions with flowers on Feb. 14. Her sister, who lives in London, said restaurants can be a popular destination, like afternoon tea with champagne at the Ritz for $50.

Neither relative has seen another specialty there that causes U.S. taste buds to tingle and hearts to throb on Valentine’s Day: Chocolate-covered strawberries.

Muscroft, who lives with her family in Glen Carbon, shares British tea and foods at the Oatman House Tea Room in Collinsville, sells scones at the Land of Goshen Community Market in Edwardsville and teaches at Dierbergs School of Cooking in both Illinois and Missouri.

“There is no restriction on what you can dip into the chocolate,” she said. “Strawberries are one of the nicer specialty uses, because you can hold onto their leaves.”

A trip to San Francisco last year inspired her to use Ghirardelli chips to test her preference for dipping.
“The semisweet suit my palate. The milk chocolate was overly sweet and the 60-percent (cacao) was too dark,'” Muscroft said. She added that other brands listing “cocoa butter” among ingredients could be acceptable.

Here is her easy process for sharing a treat with not-so-secret valentines:

– Heat chips to 110 degrees (they stir very, very easily), then stir in more chips to cool the mixture to 80 degrees (it feels stiff below 80 degrees). Holding the heat at 90 degrees provides a glossy surface and texture that snaps.

– Water hardens chocolate, so never mix them. Wash and completely dry fresh fruit before dipping. Blot the bottom of damp bowls. Use a dry, flexible spatula.

To melt chocolate, use the top of a double boiler. Even better, fit a stainless steel bowl over hot, not even simmering, water to avoid moisture creeping into it.

To melt small amounts of chocolate in a microwave oven, start at 30 seconds on high power, then stir. Continue to heat in 15-second increments, stirring after it each time, until chips melt and lose their form.
White chocolate is more delicate, so it should be melted in a double boiler, not a microwave oven.

– Hold a piece of fruit by an available edge in a spoon or from a fork. Let excess drip, then place the item on parchment paper spread on a rack. Sprinkles can be added to still-soft chocolate.

– Treats set in a few minutes, firm in an hour or two. Refrigerating hastens the process.
Heart shapes are key on Valentine’s Day. Muscroft shares her heart-shaped Scottish shortbread, a better keeper than fresh fruit.

2 cups (10 oz.) wheat flour
1/2 cup plus 3 tbsp. (5 oz.) sugar
1-1/4 cups (2-1/2 sticks; 10 oz.) butter
1 cup minus 2 tbsp. (5 oz.) rice flour
1 cup melted chocolate
About 1/4 cup sprinkles, if desired
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
In separate bowl, stir together wheat and rice flour. Gradually stir into creamed mixture until consistency of bread crumbs. Work by hand until dough is pliable.
Turn dough onto floured board. Knead a little. Roll out dough and cut in heart shapes. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets.
Bake cookies in preheated oven just until edges brown slightly – about 27 minutes for small (check earlier for thinner cookies), 37 for large.
Let cool completely.
Dip into chocolate. Decorate with sprinkles before chocolate sets.
Makes 50 small or 12 large shortbread cookies.

Collinsville Herald: Cooking Classes Focus on Practical, Exotic

Featured in the Collinsville Herald Newspaper, Collinsville,Illinois

Cooking classes focus on practical, exotic
Tea room chef passes along skills

By Mike Terry
Wednesday, July 15, 2009 1:18 AM CDT

Whether it’s how to slice an onion without bringing tears to the eyes or what spices bring out the right flavor in Indian barbecue, Jane Muscroft has a seemingly endless supply of cooking advice stored in her brain.

For the last few months, the chef has been letting those tips out through monthly cooking classes at the Oatman House Tea Room Restaurant in Collinsville.

She has already grabbed several regular followers who said they are thrilled with their newfound ability to serve up nutritious entrees, soups and pastries.

“It’s a dying art,” said Muscroft, of Glen Carbon, adding that most folks have forgotten about home cooked meals and rely on pre-packaged meals and fast food. “It isn’t hard. You just have to want to do it and make the time.”

Because of space restraints and her own hands-on style, Muscroft requires advanced booking and allows no more than 12 people per class. She normally likes to create five new seasonal dishes for each session, taking time to pass them around after each step so students can more easily remember the consistency and appearance.

“I always make everything from scratch,” she said. “That way they can see the whole procedure, go home and recreate it time and time again.”

Caseyville’s Patty Cannon has been coming to the classes since they started.

“I like the way she teaches,” she said. “It’s not like out of a textbook, but like a plain person.”

After class, Cannon likes to take the recipes home and try out the best ones on her family members.

“Everything I’ve made everybody likes,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun. You do learn things and you get a nice dinner when it’s all done.”

Born and raised in England, Muscroft moved to the United States in 2000 and began teaching cooking classes for the grocery store chain Dierbergs. Last year, she opened her own catering business, Queen’s Cuisine, which specializes in private tea parties done in the traditional English style.

The business, which uses the kitchen at Oatman House, has been featured on local television shows such as “Show Me St. Louis” and “Great Day St. Louis.”

Muscroft said she would like to expand her classroom teaching skills in the future, where she could better utilize her hands-on style. One of her goals is to hook up with a local school district and teach teenage students about cooking, especially with ideas they could use after going off to college.

The next classes at the Oatman House are July 30 and Aug. 5 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Courses will include lessons on how to make homemade ice cream and lemonade, spicy gazpacho soup and peach chutney.

Learn more

What: Oatman House Tea Room Cooking Classes

Where: 501 E. Main St., Collinsville

Cost: $25 per person

For more information, call 205-6188 or e-mail

Collinsville Journal: More Than Just Good Food

Published in the Collinsville Journal Newspaper

Last modified: Tuesday, February 17, 2009 3:14 AM CST

More than just good food

By Alene Hill

In four years, the Historic Oatman House Restaurant and Tea Room has carved its niche and earned a loyal following by serving homemade entrees and confections in a Victorian atmosphere.

But lately, weekend chefs and afternoon tea enthusiasts are enjoying more than the Oatman House’s signature menu for brunch or lunch.

English chef Jane Muscroft, who has formed her own company, Queen’s Cuisine, has begun demonstrating monthly cooking classes, serving afternoon tea and high tea and preparing special-order pastries and cakes.

Oatman House owner Sandy Rose met Muscroft at a meeting of People in Business Networking Group that meets for continental breakfast at the Oatman House on the third Tuesday of every month at 8:15 a.m.

“She serves an elegant tea in the traditional English custom with clotted cream and scones,” Rose said. “Her cooking classes are wonderful, too – she just did one on chocolate.”

It was the kind of event that fits so well in the Collinsville historic landmark home built in 1875 by Dr. Charles Oatman, a drummer boy in the Civil War who later became Collinsville’s third mayor and a physician in the community.

In addition to a class on chocolate, Muscroft’s cooking classes, usually scheduled on the last Thursday of the month, have also included Indian barbecue, which she said has become one of the most popular cuisines in England. Valentine’s Day festivities included a sold out candlelight dinner prepared by Muscroft that included prime rib and Yorkshire pudding.

The next cooking class, scheduled for Feb. 26, will feature soups.

“I plan on doing seasonal classes and classes with an English angle, where my expertise is,” said Muscroft, who has also taught cooking classes at local Dierbergs for three years. “I would like to feature my home town, Melton Mowbray, where we have pork pie that can be bought everywhere (in England), but no one has heard of here.”

Tea parties, with their customary tea sandwiches, pastries and scones, have a growing following here, she said, because they are relaxing.

“A tea is about quality rather than quantity,” she said. “I keep a comment book and people tell me they enjoy stepping back in time and taking it easy.”

The atmosphere of the Victorian Oatman House serves as the perfect backdrop for the teas and cooking classes and a variety of other regular events such as meetings, private parties and showers, fund raisers and even wine tastings.

“I really enjoy seeing this place used as much as possible,” said Rose.

Rose, a Collinsville resident, originally operated a cafe in St. Charles and was looking to bring the business home, when she stumbled across the Oatman House.

“It screamed tea room and up to then, I was thinking along the lines of another cafe. I knew I didn’t want a bar and grill, but I didn’t think of a tea room until I found this,” she said.

Since opening, the Oatman House was named among the top 10 tearooms in the country in the August edition of Victorian Homes Magazine.

“The next closest (tearoom) on the list is in Pennsylvania,” she said.

The Oatman House also includes a gift shop that features the work of local artists as well as tea, tea pots and other gifts.

The Oatman House
501 East Main, Collinsville

Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday or other hours available for special events

For reservations or more information on classes, call 346-2326 or visit


Featured in the Melton Times, the local paper in Jane’s home town, Melton Mowbray, England


Jane Muscroft
Jane Muscroft, Owner of Queen’s Cuisine

Published Date: 01 September 2006
JANE Muscroft has taken a slice of Melton stateside where she is putting the town on the American map.

Born and bred in Melton, the mother-of-two moved to St Joseph Missouri with husband Colin in 2000 and has since introduced her new neighbours to the joys of Melton Mowbray Pork Pie and Stilton cheese.

On arriving in America, Jane was taken on by American Family Insurance in the firm’s corporate office, but before long the 38-year-old began to miss the catering/cooking environment she had enjoyed back home.
Jane, whose parents still live at the family home in Newport Avenue, attended St Francis Primary School and De Lisle before going on to gain catering qualifications at South Fields College in Leicester.

She said: “I worked part time at the Manor Oven as a waitress during my early teens. I worked at the Harboro Hotel in the kitchen while attending college and when I left I college I was taken on full time at the Sysonby Knoll Hotel. Just under a year later I moved to the George Hotel.”
But despite enjoying her chosen career path, Jane and Colin left their Buckminster Close home and headed for America.

Jane added: “We had no family members in the states and had only travelled to the area twice previously looking for a new home. We lived happily in St Joseph for seven years and then relocated to St Louis which sits on the Mississippi river. Upon arrival I contacted Dierbergs, a local supermarket chain that also has a number of cooking schools. The Americans are very receptive to my English accent and it was felt that with my catering background and keen interest in food that I should be employed as a freelance demonstrator.”
Jane taught her first set of classes in January and February, entitled Afternoon Tea, and they were a sell out.
“Everybody enjoyed hearing about the English custom and enjoyed the dishes I prepared.” During one of her subsequent classes one of the participants asked about foods from her local area. “This prompted me to offer a class featuring foods from Melton Mowbray. After some experimenting, along with some helpful tips from Dickinson and Morris, I have managed to recreate a Melton Mowbray Pork Pie. During the At Home in England classes I serve a sample of my home made pork pie and show the customers how it’s made. I also serve Stilton cheese, which is available in the states, as well as a number of recipes using the cheese.”
Jane tries to return to England once a year and always visits Melton.
“My daughters enjoy visiting the County Park which is very close to where their grandparents live. It’s nice to get back to Melton.”

To learn more about Melton Mowbray visit the town’s web page.