These outrageous cocoa dusted almonds are oven roasted, lightly sweetened and covered in cocoa powder. If this isn’t your year to host the holidays, maybe you’re in need of a hostess/host gift idea. These almonds make a fun gift and it’s easy to double the recipe. The secret to this delicious treat is in the quality of the cocoa powder and good quality cocoa powder elevates your desserts. When baking, you should always use unsweetened cocoa powder as it allows you to control the amount of sugar in your baked goods. There are two types of unsweetened cocoa powder, natural cocoa and Dutch-process cocoa, with the difference being in the amount of acidity. Many markets sell professional quality cocoa powder and I like Valrhona, Callebaut and Ghirardelli natural unsweetened cocoa powder.
Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line two sheet trays or cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside one sheet tray. Place the almonds on the other sheet tray. Toast the nuts in the oven until they begin to turn a little darker and give off a nutty aroma, about 10 minutes (don't burn them).
In a small bowl, combine the sea salt, cocoa powder, confectioner’s sugar and the cayenne pepper, if using. Set aside.
Transfer the nuts to a medium-sized bowl while they're still warm. Drizzle the maple syrup over the nuts and toss to coat. Place the maple-coated nuts back on the sheet tray and return to the oven for another 5-7 minutes, until the maple syrup sets.
Carefully transfer the hot maple-coated nuts to a clean bowl and sprinkle with the cocoa powder mixture and toss to coat. Pour the nuts onto the second (clean) parchment-lined sheet tray and let the nuts cool completely. Store the nuts in a sealed container for up to 2 weeks.