Hello Team Nigella! I'm relatively new to baking, but I love, love, love Nigella's recipes (I'm a particular fan of Domestic Goddess). I was just wondering if you could clear up a baking query for me? Margarine vs. butter - I always have margarine in the house (mainly because I buy it in big 1kg boxes), but I don't always have unsalted butter. Plus, unsalted butter is terribly expensive now. I know Nigella isn't a fan of margarine, but in baking how interchangeable are the two ingredients? In an emergency, could you use margarine in brownies? Or muffins? Many thanks in advance!
The main reason for using butter in baking is that it adds a delicious flavor that margarine can't match. Milk has a creamy flavour and this is concentrated as the milk is churned into butter. In contrast, margarines are made from neutral oils which are flavourless, and although flavour can be added it doesn't march the depth and roundness of butter.
It is possible to use margarine in baking and sometimes it is necessary due to dietary reasons. Some margarines are especially belnded fr baking so that they mix easily. In strongly flavoured cakes, such as chocolate cakes, you are less likely to notice that margarine has been used. But for plainer cakes we would suggest using half butter and half margarine and boosting the vanilla extract slightly. For pastry we would always suggest using butter as the flavour here is important, and you can always use half butter and half lard or shortening for a flaky crust.