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Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.
I can't tell you from personal experience but I've heard that people like Earth Balance.
We are currently using Earth Balance, however it has a tropical/banana-like flavor (maybe from the palm oil) wondering if there is any other good substitutes out there.
I've had a lot of luck with coconut oil, it does make things taste like coconut so it's not always appropriate. It's great for desserts though.
If there's not a lot of butter called for (say, less than 1/2 cup) I generally use safflower oil and accept that the texture will be a little different.
I trend toward lard for things like pie crust and biscuits. It's a fairly neutral flavor and super traditional so there are existing recipes that take into account the way it works.
I like Earth Balance too, but you don't say why--if you are not vegan but rather have a dairy allergy I personally think lard is the best. Make sure you use a good, roasty tasting one, not the scary super processed pure white lard sold in the grocery store. It makes an AMAZING shortbread type cookie:
Thank you all for the input. My son is allergic to dairy and I'm just looking for ways to bake goodies for our family.
Unless you have an irrational fear of "processing", refined (flavorless) coconut oil is a good substitute for butter.
Lard is well worth exploring even without the allergy situation. It was our grandmothers' baking "secret", now being rediscovered. Bakers prefer leaf lard (rendered from kidney fat) but it's difficult to come by. There are mail-order suppliers and of course you can do-it-yourself, a very easy yet smelly job.
Again, absent irrational fears, the stuff you can purchase in the grocery store is perfectly healthful. The extra processing removes some of the flavor -- a good thing in some cases, a negative in others, depending upon what you're baking.
One caveat: Butter contains about 80% fat and 16% water so you may need to make some adjustments when using pure fats.
Kristen W. is a trusted home cook.
Spiced Life, where do you get a "good, roasty tasting" lard? I asked for lard at my local butcher and they pointed me towards the super-processed white stuff you refer to.
I buy mine at our local farmer's market. Old school, rural Midwest. :) International butchers and markets can be helpful as well but often they are processed.
I buy rendered lard at the farmer's market (in Seattle). All the vendors (one dairy, 3 pig and beef farms) were out for a few weeks and I ended up rendering my own from leaf fat, which while time consuming was not particularly difficult, but still not something I plan on doing again any time soon. Ask the butcher for leaf lard rather than just for lard, tell them you are making pies.
Oops Spiced Life, reading on I see that Chef Ono sort of answered that question, but if you have anything to add I'm interested.
Fleishman's UNSALTED margarine is dairy free.
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