There are few winter sweets I like better than panforte. It’s a Tuscan confection, dense and chewy, almost more like candy than cake. The mingled flavors of citrus zest, toasted nuts and cocoa as well as warm spices like cinnamon, allspice and clove seem almost medieval in their complexity. It’s the kind of sweet you eat by the thin wedge – but that small piece (with a good short espresso) is enough to haunt you for days.
The only problem with panforte is it’s such a pain to make. Don’t worry, Emporio Rulli, the Bay Area café and bakery, is riding to the rescue with their annual delivery of one of the best versions I’ve tasted in the U.S. Rulli also makes very good torrone (like a sticky fudge studded with nuts), as well as a buttery panettone and thin, crisp, incredibly nutty stamped wafers called cialde (think cream wafer with an MFA).
Small (18-ounce) panforte $26.75; large (26-ounce) $38, plus shipping; torrone $19.95 to $22.95; cialde $31.90 for 10; pannetone $21.20 to $27.50; www.rulli.com