Made of dark chocolate, or milk chocolate, and other optional ingredients, a chocolate Christmas tree makes a delicious holiday centerpiece or a much appreciated hostess gift. Made of stacked chocolate shapes, the trees go together quickly. Decorate them with frosting, candies or shaped cookies.
Recipes for a chocolate Christmas tree vary. Decide if you want dark or milk chocolate and choose a recipe that includes optional ingredients such as nuts, coconut, rice cereal or dried fruit.
Melt the chocolate using a double boiler or a microwave. If you use a double boiler, make certain that the heated water never touches the upper kettle or reservoir which holds the chocolate, and don't let even a drop of the water get into the chocolate as it will spoil the texture. Monitor the chocolate carefully as it melts and remove it from the heat as soon as it has softened sufficiently to easily stir it smooth. Don't heat the chocolate so long that it loses its gloss.
If you use a microwave to melt the chocolate, put it in a microwavable glass bowl or measuring cup, then microwave for 30 seconds, rotate the bowl 1/4 turn, microwave another 30 seconds, and rotate the bowl again. Continue in this way until the chocolate has softened enough so that a few stirs will result in a smooth, frosting-consistency chocolate. Don't over-microwave, or the chocolate will lose its gloss and smoothness.
Fold the additional ingredients (nuts, fruit, etc.) gently into the chocolate. Don't overwork the chocolate, and take care to avoid incorporating air into it.
Some recipes specify cross-shaped sections of chocolate, others suggest forming 6 to 8 star-shaped chocolate layers. The cross-shaped sections will create a tree with a more rustic appearance, while the star-shaped sections create a fuller, more elegant tree shape.
To form the shapes, spread the chocolate mixture over an aluminum foil-covered cookie sheet or other plastic surface, guiding it into the desired shape. You'll want 6 to 8 shapes, graduating in size from small to large. Allow the shapes to cool and harden completely. Alternatively, cut the shapes out of a slab of the cooled chocolate mixture using a sharp paring knife, or even cut star shapes using a set of graduated-size star cookie cutters.
Use additional melted chocolate as glue to hold the layers together. Start with the largest at the bottom, and center the next largest on top of it. Wait until each glued section cools completely and hardens before you add the next. Rotate the cross- or star-shaped layers with each new layer so that the tree will have evenly spaced branches.
Pipe white, green or red royal frosting garlands across the branches, or dust the tree with confectioner's sugar for "snow." Use melted chocolate to glue nonpareils or small, brightly colored candies to the tree, if desired. Keep the tree in a cool location until you're ready to use it or present it as a gift.