This is an old recipe for traditional Scottish shortbread that was easily made in the Lowcountry with its rice mills. I keep lightly salted butter on hand just for shortbread. Butter was always salted for storage purposes both in Scotland and in the Lowcountry, and directions in the old recipes invariably call for “squeezing all the water from the butter.” I opt for salted butter for authentic flavor, and in my oven of a kitchen I use an electric mixer to cream chilled butter and sugar and almost never allow my hands to touch the flour, which toughens the dough. This is a sandy, delicious, easy-to-make cookie—and the secret to the best bourbon balls. Note that the flours are weighed (volume measures are also given).

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Ingredients

  • ¼ pound (1 stick) lightly salted butter, chilled
  • ¼ pound (½ cup) superfine sugar or well-sifted granulated sugar
  • ¼ pound (1 cup) unbleached (all-purpose) flour, dried in a low oven and well-sifted
  • 2 ounces ( cup) rice flour (found in natural food stores; do not use Southeast Asian)

Method

Turn on the electric mixer and drop pieces of the chilled butter into the large bowl one or two at a time, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. When the butter is creamed, add the sugar and continue beating until the butter and sugar are creamed together. Turn off the motor.

Sift the flours into the bowl through a fine sieve. Turn the motor back on and, working quickly, mix it all together until just blended. It will be very crumbly but will come together into a ball in your hands. Form a ball of the dough, trying to handle it as little as possible, then press the dough evenly into an 8-inch cake pan (see Note). With the tines of a fork, press a pattern around the edge of the dough. Refrigerate. Preheat the oven to 325°.

When the oven has preheated, remove the pan from the refrigerator and bake until the shortbread just begins to blush with color. This may take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, score into 8 wedges as for a pie while still warm, and allow to cool in the pan.

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