Makes 3 to 4 dozen balls
For the shortbread
8 tablespoons (1 stick) lightly salted butter, chilled
1/2 cup superfine sugar or well-sifted granulated sugar
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, dried in a low oven and well sifted
1/3 cup rice flour (found in natural food stores; do not use Southeast Asian rice flour)
For the bourbon balls
2 cups crushed shortbread
3/4 cup confectioners sugar, plus 1/3 cup for dredging
1 1/4 cups chopped pecans
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup light com syrup
1/3 cup bourbon or sour mash whiskey (may substitute dark rum)
For the shortbread: With a stand mixer at medium speed, drop pieces of the chilled butter into the mixer bowl 1 or 2 at a time, occasionally stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary. When the butter has softened, add the sugar and beat until the butter and sugar are creamed together, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off the mixer.
Sift the flours into the bowl through a fine-mesh sieve. Turn the motor on to medium-low and, working quickly, beat all the ingredients until just blended. The mixture will be crumbly but will come together into a ball in your hands. Form the dough into a ball, handling it as little as possible, then press it evenly into an 8-inch round cake pan. Use the tines of a fork to press a pattern around the edge of the dough. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
When the oven has preheated, remove the pan from the refrigerator and bake until the shortbread just begins to take on color; this might take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, score the shortbread into 8 wedges, as for a pie, while still warm, and allow it to cool in the pan.
For the bourbon balls: Crush enough of the shortbread to equal 2 cups of fine crumbs; that will require about 5 of the wedges. Transfer the crumbs to the food processor along with 3/4 cup of confectioners sugar, the pecans, cocoa, corn syrup, and bourbon or whiskey. Process until well blended together.
Roll the mixture into 3/4-to-1-inch balls; if the mixture is too soft to form, refrigerate it for an hour or two to firm it up. Roll the balls in the remaining 1/3 cup of powdered sugar, and store them in a wax-paper-lined container with a tight-fitting lid. They will keep for about a month.
MAKE AHEAD: The bourbon balls can be made and refrigerated several weeks in advance. Adapted from Hoppin Johns Lowcountry Cooking: Recipes and Ruminations from Charleston & the Carolina Coastal Plain Twentieth Anniversary Edition, by John Martin Taylor (University of North Carolina Press, 2012).
NUTRITION Per ball (based on 48): 60 calories, 0 g protein, 8 g carbohydrates, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 5 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar