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Covenant Communications
Chocolate Waffles from "Chocolate Never Faileth."

"It's hard to have too much chocolate," says Annette Lyon of American Fork. "When I read a lot of other people's recipes, they sound anemic. I personally don't think they use enough chocolate, but I guess it's a matter of taste."

So be forewarned: her new cookbook, "Chocolate Never Faileth," (Covenant Communications, $21.99) is intense with chocolate.

"Someone asked me about the hot fudge cake recipe, because it calls for a whole cup of cocoa. To me, that's not uncommon," she said in an interview.

The cookbook is a departure for Lyon, who is better known for her novels, most recently "Band of Sisters," also with Covenant. But, she has a chocoholic background, as one of the founders of the Utah Chocolate Show with her sister, Melanie Henderson. "I thought, if I don't do it someone else will."

And the process was completely different from writing fiction. "The bulk of the time was spent in the kitchen, experimenting and playing around with different ideas. But then my novelist side crept in and I wrote little anecdotes for each recipe. So it's a chocolate cookbook with personality."

She was especially pleased when a woman told her she used the cookbook as bedtime reading. Another thing that sets it apart from the myriad of dessert books out there: "I'm big on simplicity. You don't need a culinary degree to made good things from scratch. I made the recipes so they're easy to do with ingredients that are readily available at the grocery store."

A tip for working with chocolate: "One of the most common mistakes is that people will work with melted chocolate too fast because they're afraid it will set up."

That sometimes leads to "bloom," the whitish-gray coloring on the chocolate's surface, which is caused by rapid temperature changes.

If your dipping chocolate is getting too thick, thin it with a little oil, she advised. Or better still, nonstick cooking spray, which contains lecithin, which Lyon says is a "fantastic" thinning agent, especially with chocolate chips.

"Just give the chocolate a two-to-three-second squirt, then stir it up," she said.

Some of her favorites from the book are the hot fudge cake, marbled pumpkin chocolate chip bread and the French silk pie — "sometimes I'll forget the crust and just eat the filling."

There are also nonedible recipes such as chocolate-scented playdough. She recently hosted a "chocolate" party for her 13-year-old daughter, where the guests made chocolate lip gloss and body scrubs from the book. "One tip: make sure when you use the body scrub, you wash it all the way down the drain, because it looks frightening when it dries!"

HOT COCOA MIX

4 cups dried milk powder

1 cup cocoa, sifted

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1 cup flavored coffee creamer of your choice (hazelnut, chocolate toffee, cinnamon, French vanilla, almond, etc.)

Put all ingredients in a large bowl and mix with a big spoon, making sure to mix thoroughly. Store in an airtight container or divide into smaller airtight containers for gifts. To use the mix, add ¼ cup to a mug containing 1 cup hot water, and stir. If desired, add some mini marshmallows and a squirt of whipped cream.

— "Chocolate Never Faileth," by Annette Lyon

CHERRY CORDIAL POPCORN

½ cup water

¼ cup butter

2 cups sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 unsweetened cherry flavor drink mix packet, such as Kool-Aid

½ cup popcorn kernels, popped, or 2 bags microwave popcorn, popped

1½ cup dipping chocolate of your choice

Cover a large area with parchment paper. In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, combine the water, butter, sugar and salt, stirring until dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil, uncovered, for 4 minutes. Remove from heat until mixture becomes still. Add the drink mix packet. Stir well until the powder is integrated. Pour the syrup over the popcorn. It's helpful to have a second pair of hands for this method, but not imperative: Continually drizzle the syrup over the popcorn, scooping the popcorn with a large spoon from the bottom of the bowl as you go. Keep scooping syrup from the bottom of the bowl to drizzle at the top, turning the popcorn, until it's well coated. Spread the popcorn onto the parchment. Melt the chocolate and drizzle over the top of the popcorn. Let the popcorn and chocolate cool and harden before breaking into bite-size pieces. Store in an airtight container.

— "Chocolate Never Faileth," by Annette Lyon

CHOCOLATE WAFFLES

These can be eaten for breakfast, but also make a yummy dessert. For a less intense chocolate flavor (more of a milk chocolate than semisweet) decrease the cocoa to ¼ cup and increase the sugar to 3 tablespoons.

2 eggs

1 cup milk

3 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

1½ cup flour

1/3 cup cocoa

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

In a medium bowl, beat eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; set aside. In a smaller bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add to wet ingredients and stir until blended. Beat for about a minute to give the eggs a little loft. Pour the correct amount into your waffle maker and cook until the iron stops steaming. Makes about 8 small waffles.

— "Chocolate Never Faileth," by Annette Lyon

GOURMET PRETZEL RODS

This recipe requires a block of caramel from a specialty store such as Gygi or Baker's C&C. If you use chocolate chips instead of the melting chocolate, thin the mixture by adding a little cooking spray with lecithin, or oil.

Jumbo pretzels

1 solid caramel block

Melting chocolate (such as Guittard A'Peels)

Embellishments of your choice, such as:

Contrasting colors of chocolate for drizzle

Toffee bits

Crushed candy canes or other candy

Chopped nuts

Sprinkles

Cover a large area of the counter with parchment or waxed paper. Prepare your embellishments so they're ready to stick to the wet chocolate; put any sprinkles, nuts, crushed candy, or other embellishments onto plates so the pretzels can be rolled across them easily. Melt chocolate for drizzle and either put it in squeeze bottles or zip-style bags.

Using a good knife and a cutting board, slice the caramel into pieces that measure about ¼ inch thick. Then cut each of those slices into at least four or more pieces. Roll each piece of caramel into a long rope or "snake." When it's about a foot long, wrap it around a pretzel, starting at the top and spiraling it around, pressing gently so it attaches to the pretzel as it goes.

The spiral should cover about 2?3 of the pretzel, leaving the last 1?3 empty. Repeat with all the pretzels you plan to dip. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a large bowl. Stir the chocolate well periodically to keep it tempered and at the right temperature.

To coat the pretzel with chocolate easily, fill a tall glass about 2?3 with chocolate. Put a pretzel into the glass, then spoon chocolate over any of the caramel-covered part of the pretzel that doesn't have chocolate on it.

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Let the excess chocolate drip off the pretzel (you can also wipe off the extra chocolate with the spoon). Immediately roll the pretzel into any topping/embellishments and then lay it on the parchment or waxed paper. If you want to drizzle the pretzel with chocolate, do so now.

Repeat with remaining pretzels, refilling the glass with more chocolate as needed. Let the pretzels cool and harden before moving. They will likely puddle slightly, but no one minds extra chocolate! If desired, wrap in cellophane bags and tie with a ribbon.

— "Chocolate Never Faileth," by Annette Lyon

e-mail: vphillips@desnews.com