By Ellen Douglas

Spontaneous bakers understand the annoyance of recipes calling for do-ahead steps, such as setting out the margarine to bring it to room temperature before you combine it with other ingredients. When a recipe calls for room-temperature margarine, you can use your microwave strategically. Cold margarine won't blend well with other ingredients, but melted margarine may alter the texture of your baked goods.

Cooking ingredients
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For baking, choose stick margarine, which contains less air than whipped.

Step 1

Unwrap a stick of margarine and cut it into roughly even-sized pieces, about 1 tablespoon each. The margarine softens more quickly and evenly in smaller chunks.

Step 2

Set the margarine pieces on a microwave-safe plate, uncovered. Put the plate in the microwave.

Step 3

Set the microwave's power level to 30 percent or Low and the timer for 10 seconds. The lower setting and short time prevents melted or scalded margarine.

Step 4

Check the margarine after 10 seconds. If the pieces haven't softened to the point where your finger leaves a slight impression when you push the surface, continue heating it. Keep the microwave at 30 percent power or Low, and check the pieces at 10-second intervals.

Step 5

Remove the margarine when the pieces yield to your touch and before they start to turn runny.