Place the granulated sugar and water in a large copper pot or 4-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the almonds and stir to coat them evenly in the sugar syrup. Your goal is to cook the almonds until the sugar crystallizes and caramelizes.
When water is added to the sugar, the sugar crystals are dissolved. As it boils, the syrup becomes thicker as the water evaporates and big soap-like bubbles begin to form. Soon, all the moisture evaporates and the mixture becomes sandy. The sandiness is the sugar recrystallizing. It only takes the reformation of one sugar crystal to recrystallize the others. Keep stirring! Next, you see the sugar closest to the heat change from sandy to a clear liquid. The melted sugar clings to the almonds. When the sugar changes from clear to golden brown, the nuts are caramelized. Once this happens, pay close attention; the time it takes to pass from caramelized to burned is only a matter of seconds, especially when making smaller batches. You know the nuts are finished when most of the sandy sugar is gone.
The first few times you make these, I suggest you try the following: When the sugar closest to the heat changes from sandy to liquid, remove the pan from the burner and continue to stir. The residual heat in the sugar and nuts will continue to cook the mixture while you stir it. Lower the heat to medium-low and continue to stir the nuts while moving the saucepan on and off the heat at 10-second intervals. This will give you more control as it cooks. When the nuts begin to caramelize, remove them from the heat and finish stirring.
Use a wooden spoon to spread the caramelized nuts onto a parchment paper-covered baking sheet. Do not touch the nuts as they are extremely hot. Let the nuts cool completely. If your freezer will accommodate the baking sheet, you can place the nuts in the freezer for about 30 minutes to speed up the cooling process. When completely cooled, break apart any nut clusters that may have formed. At this stage, you can choose to serve the nuts as they are.
Place the caramelized nuts in the coating pan attached to the stand mixer. Spin at low speed. Use a ladle to add the chocolate to the spinning nuts. Add 1 ladle at a time until the nuts are coated to the desired thickness. If a thicker coat is desired, use more chocolate. If a thinner coat is desired, decrease the amount of chocolate. Finish by adding cocoa powder to the coating pan. Remove and serve.
Recipe courtesy of Jacques Torres