These delicate, crisp shortbread explode in a burst of buttery delight that will make your mouth sing. As one of my friends said after she bit into one, “Wow! It tastes just like the real thing.” These shortbread are gluten-free, but they’re good enough to put on any cookie tray, whether it’s for a gluten-free person or not. Like any shortbread, the secret to is to use soft butter and beat in the sugar until the butter is thoroughly creamed. Technique is everything here, so weigh your ingredients for the best results and take your time. Handle the dough carefully, using gentle pats to shape it, or it will stick. You’ll be fine if you roll it out between sheets of plastic and dip your cookie cutter into rice flour between each cut. Also, don’t skip putting the shaped shortbread into the freezer or fridge to harden up before baking. This is an essential step that keeps the shortbread from spreading too much in the oven.
For those of you who are wondering, I tried to make these with dextrose but it didn’t work. The classic crisp texture and buttery flavor weren’t the same, so this is one of those times where it’s best to stick as closely as possible to the original recipe. That means real butter and real sugar. But since this recipe calls for half the sugar of most other cookie recipes, it’s a good choice for a special treat.
Gluten-free Scottish Shortbread
Makes about 30 cookies (2 inch or 5 cm diameter), adapted from “How to Bake”
230 grams (1/2 pound or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
105 grams sugar (1/2 cup) sugar
122 grams (7/8 cup) superfine brown rice flour
123 grans (1 1/4 cup) blanched almond meal or flour
53 grams (1/3 cup) potato starch
Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F or 176° C. Place parchment paper on top of 2 rimless cookie sheets. If you’re using a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment. Beat until soft and light-colored. Slowly add the sugar and continue beating on high for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the mixture is pale yellow and fluffy. Whisk together the rest of the ingredients in a medium bowl, then add the flour mixture to the butter and beat until evenly mixed.
Put a piece of plastic wrap on a flat surface and scrape the dough onto it. Carefully shape it into a circle and flatten it with a couple of pats of your hand, then put another sheet of plastic over the top. Gently use a rolling-pin to flatten it to a 1/2 inch (13 mm) thickness. Remove the top layer of plastic and dip a round, 2 inch (5 cm) diameter cookie cutter into a bowl of rice flour. Knock off the excess flour and cut the dough. Slip a hand underneath the bottom piece of plastic and press up to loosen the dough from the cutter. Carefully place each shortbread on the parchment covered cookie sheet. When the tray is full, place it in the freezer for 15 minutes or the fridge for 1 hour, so that the shortbread hardens. Fill the other cookie sheet and place it in the freezer or fridge.
Bake one sheet of cookies at a time, placing the tray on the center rack of the oven and baking for 15 to 16 minutes, or until the cookies are very lightly colored. The cookies will be very fragile until they are completely cooled, so don’t move them with a spatula. Instead, carefully slip the parchment paper onto a wire rack and let them cool completely before handling. Store at room temperature in a metal tin or tightly covered plastic container for a day or two. Keep them in the freezer for longer storage.