How to protein-up your holiday muffins. Hint: don’t add powdered crickets

Enlarge / The whey and cricket definitely stand out.

Beth Mole

If I could, I’d eat baked goods for every meal. And if there’s one time of year to try to get away with this, it’s the holidays. Festively seasoned cakes, breads, pastries, and cookies abound. That said, there’s one baked good that usually doesn’t make the cut: muffins. In fact, I kind of loathe muffins.

But, it is the holidays—‘tis the season to be jolly and all. I felt like I should give muffins another shot. So, I set out to try to make them suck less. I was generally successful, I think. Though, thanks to my lovely editor, Eric Bangeman, the journey to redeem muffins involved eating powdered insects. He meant well (at least I hope he did), but it was definitely a step backwards for the baked goods.

First, my beef with muffins: basically, they have so much potential to be great but generally fail miserably. They’re easy to make, can be packed with pretty much any flavoring or ingredients imaginable, and have the potential to be delicious. Better yet, they’re portable and easy to eat—perfect for breakfast. They fit right in the palm of your hand so you can mindlessly shove one toward your face while running to work or plopping at your desk. They also look like they should be good for you in some way. They could be the perfect breakfast baked good.

But, sadly, they’re usually just dull sugar bombs, loaded with empty calories that leave you hungry again in 30 minutes flat. If I wanted a sweet, fattening, un-filling baked good, I’d eat something super scrumptious, like a chocolate croissant or a cream-filled donut. Move aside, muffins.

To try to lift muffins from their pitiful position, I decided to pack them with protein as well as flavor. Studies have found that protein is satiating, and there are a variety of ways nowadays to easily bake in the mighty ingredient—protein powders from milk, plants, insects even. But which is the best? Some studies have suggested that certain protein sources may be more filling than others. But I wanted a good taste and texture, too. So I designed a little baking experiment.

I started with my favorite muffin recipe (which is to say, a rare formula for a muffin I didn’t want to chuck at a wall). Its base is buttermilk and oatmeal, and it creates a relatively tasty, low-calorie, not-too-sweet, filling breakfast muffin. For this experiment, I boosted the flavor and tested out three different types of protein powders: whey, plant protein, and cricket flour (which is, as the name implies, just ground-up crickets).

The basic recipe is:

  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups AP flour
  • ½ cup raisins or currants
  • ½ cup apples
  • 1½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon clove

There’s one trick to this recipe that requires planning: you have to soak the oats in the buttermilk overnight (or at least six hours).

Once that’s done, the rest is easy. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In a bowl, mix the buttermilk-soaked oats with the sugar, butter, egg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Then gently stir in the flour, fruits, and spices. Evenly distribute the batter in 12 muffin pans and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. Let them cool for about five minutes and then turn them out.

To add the protein, I did a little bit of jiggering. I wanted to make each muffin have about the same amount of protein in it, for comparison purposes. Then I had to readjust the recipe to account for the added ingredients and try to keep the texture and consistency as close as I could.

Here are the protein powders I decided on:

Here’s how I incorporated each powder:

  • For the whey: I cut the flour by ½ cup and added ¾ cup (~75 grams) of whey powder
  • For the plant protein: I cut the flour again by ½ cup and added 81 grams of plant powder
  • For the cricket muffins: I simply replaced ¾ cup of flour for ¾ cup of cricket

Here’s how the nutrition information broke down:

The results

The plain muffins had a festive holiday flavor without being too sweet. Its cake-y innards were moist and tender. And they were the satisfying muffins I remember. The addition of the protein of the whey and plant definitely made these relatively satisfying muffins seem like a real breakfast. They kept me full for at least three hours, which is a win in my book. But which one was best?

The whey protein’s flavor was similar to the plain muffin, but its innards were dense and rubbery. It’s possible that if I cut the flour back a bit, it could be less rubbery. But this is a known problem when baking with whey, so I’m not sure it’s worth playing with it.

The plant protein had a good flavor but was a bit sweeter and vanilla-tinged because I used a flavored protein mix. If I was going to do this again, I would try an unflavored plant protein mix, likely solely pea protein. That said, the texture and innards of the muffin was generally very good. I might add a tablespoon or two of extra milk to make it a little moister next time.

The cricket muffins, to me, were inedible. The powder smells and tastes exactly like crickets—go figure. And baking doesn’t make that go away. If you’re having trouble conjuring cricket flavor in your mind, it’s like an earthy, bitter dirt flavor with a hint of “wrong.” The muffin batter does its best to mask that horror, but it’s still there. Behind the pleasant clove and nutmeg notes, the icky basement insect notes lurk. And worse, they stay in your mouth to haunt you until you eat real food. And whatever you do, don’t burp. It… yeah, I just can’t.

For a second opinion, I sent all four muffins to Eric. Here are his thoughts:

When Beth and I were discussing this baking project, I was really excited. I’ve been trying to eat right and work out this year, and one of the things that has been helpful is emphasizing lean protein and trying to keep most of my carbs complex. And as someone who used to order crickets by the thousand (I used to have 30+ frogs, toads, and geckos), I was curious as to how the high-protein cricket flour would taste in a recipe.

First and foremost, you should know that Beth has mad skills when it comes to baking. At our 2016 staff meet-up in New York, she brought some chocolate chip cookies to share, and they were some of the best I’ve eaten. So my experience with her baking had my hopes high. One bite of the cricket flour muffin and those hopes were cruelly dashed.

That’s a bit of an overstatement, but they definitely had something to them that tasted more than a bit off. It’s not just that they tasted bad; there was a flavor that didn’t belong in baked goods. I’d even say they had a flavor that doesn’t belong in food.

The “control” muffin was excellent, but the whey and plant protein muffins were winners as well. The whey muffins were a bit glossy looking and had a slightly different mouthfeel, but there wasn’t enough of a difference to put them in the category of “not muffin.” The plant protein muffins tasted a wee bit different from the controls, but they had a very pleasant taste. If I were looking for a high-protein muffin, this is what I’d use.

The best part of taste-testing the muffins was getting my 17-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son to participate… unknowingly. I told them they all were basically the same muffin with slightly different recipes. After they had swallowed a bite of each one, I screamed “YOU JUST ATE CRICKETS HA HA HA!” as they started retching.

Actually, since I pride myself on not being a bad dad, I didn’t do that. Instead, I told them what each muffin was baked with and asked for feedback. Both of them (and my wife, who was clued in ahead of time) came to the same conclusion as Beth and I did: let’s leave cricket-eating to frogs and lizards for now.

The winner

To me, plant protein clearly won. Although there was an added vanilla flavor due to the mix I used, there were no unpleasant notes, beating out crickets. And the overall texture was not just better than the rubbery whey, it was indistinguishable from the plain muffin. I would make these muffins again—and wouldn’t chuck them at walls.

Apple’s macOS reveals your encrypted drive’s password in the hint box • The Register

Video Apple on Thursday released a security patch for macOS High Sierra 10.13 to address vulnerabilities in Apple File System (APFS) volumes and its Keychain software.

Matheus Mariano, a developer with Brazil-based Leet Tech, documented the APFS flaw in a blog post a week ago, and it has since been reproduced by another programmer, Felix Schwartz.

The bug (CVE-2017-7149) undoes the protection afforded to encrypted volumes under the new Apple File System (APFS).

The problem becomes apparent when you create an encrypted APFS volume on a Mac with an SSD using Apple’s Disk Utility app. After setting up a password hint, invoking the password hint mechanism during an attempt to remount the volume will display the actual password in plaintext rather than the hint.

Here’s a video demonstrating the programming cockup:

Youtube Video

Apple acknowledged the flaw in its patch release notes: “If a hint was set in Disk Utility when creating an APFS encrypted volume, the password was stored as the hint. This was addressed by clearing hint storage if the hint was the password, and by improving the logic for storing hints.”

The Keychain flaw (CVE-2017-7150) was identified last week by Patrick Wardle, from infosec biz Synack. It allowed unsigned apps to access sensitive data stored in Keychain.

“It becomes clearer every day that Apple shipped #APFS way too early,” wrote Schwartz in a tweet on Thursday.

Other coders have said as much. Shortly after Apple released the High Sierra upgrade, aka macOS 10.13, in late September, Brian Lopez, an engineering manager at GitHub, mused via Twitter, “Legitimately wondering of Apple accidentally shipped a pre-release version of High Sierra. So much of it is unfinished and unpolished.”

Marco Arment, another developer, suggested Apple’s focus on iOS has hurt its quality control elsewhere. “The biggest problem with Apple putting less effort into macOS isn’t that it stagnates — it’s that they make buggier, sloppier updates,” he wrote via Twitter on Thursday.

Asked to comment, an Apple spokesperson directed The Register to its published security update notification and an accompanying knowledge base article. ®

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Apple’s bad iPhone X design guides hint perfection is no longer priority

Around the same time Apple rolls out each new major release of iOS, the Cupertino company also distributes its detailed Human Interface Guidelines to help appmakers design and build software in a more efficient and intuitive manner.

The documentation essentially outlines the best design practices for its mobile operating system, accompanied by numerous tips on how to streamline the user experience for more meaningful engagement. But it sure seems the Big A made a teeny-tiny mistake in the design guides for the new iPhone X.

As you can see in the screenshot below, while the clock positioned left of the much-talked notch indicates the time is 9:41, the big clock in the first render shows a completely different time – 1:34.

The minor inconsistency was first spotted by fastidious Redditors who shared the funny error in the Apple subreddit.

But as some Redditors have rightfully pointed out: There appear to be even more concerning discrepancies in the renders from the official guidelines.

For one, showing two separate time indicators on the lock screen goes against anything Apple: It is counter-intuitive and thoroughly unnecessary.

Another bewildering detail is how the screen area in the upper-left corner ought to be filled up. This space was previously reserved for displaying your mobile carrier, but early leaked iPhone X sketches suggested Apple will no longer be showing the carrier brand there.

This possibility was further confirmed during the live demos at the official iPhone X reveal keynote, which showed the time indicator will appear in the upper left corner (when the screen is unlocked) – though there were images that suggested the upper-left area could remain empty altogether.

But things started to get confusing once again when tech aficionados began releasing their hands-on videos with the new X handset.

In a video by popular tech vlogger Marques Brownlee, you can clearly see the Verizon brand displayed in the upper left corner of the iPhone X (when in lock screen).

 

This adds up to three different ‘best design practices’ Apple has so far suggested for the upper-left notch area in one way or another. Say what you will, but this makes me think the Cupertino titan did not entirely think this through.

What strikes me as particularly troubling, though, is all the confusion Apple is creating with these very obvious inconsistencies in the official renders – which by the way are supposed to lead by example.

Designers have already voiced their suspicion the inconsistencies in iOS 11 will make their jobs a living hell. And sketching for the iPhone X and its notch could turn out to be particularly cumbersome.

Yes, Apple has shared some advice on how appmakers can take advantage of its new tools to easily adjust their apps to accommodate the X’s unusual form factor, but that is still one more thing designers will have to keep in mind when prototyping for the new flagship.

And while Jony Ive continues to insist the iPhone X is merely the beginning of a new chapter for Apple, it sure looks like the company is off to a bumpy start.

This might seem like petty criticism, but what Apple has always stood for is precision and perfection. I see little of that in iOS 11 so far… as much as I continue to hope the iPhone X could still prove me wrong.

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Pokemon Go UPDATE – Niantic drops BIGGEST hint yet for Gen 3 release | Gaming | Entertainment

Pokemon Go developer Niantic has dropped its biggest Gen 3 hint yet.

Niantic CEO John Hanke recently told Taiwanese magazine Business Weekly what the game’s next secret weapon will be new Pokemon.

“There is a lot of Pokemon that have not yet been launched,” Hanke revealed (via Comicbook).

“So I think the next secret weapon will be launch of the next Pokemon generation. I hope the players will soon see them.”

Fans have already discovered Gen 3 Pokemon in the game files, while a new update suggests that everything is in place for an imminent release.

In fact, the only thing missing are the sound files needed to replicate the new Pokemon.

Check out a selection of our favourite Gen 3 Pokemon in the gallery below…

A recent Pokemon Company statement suggested that spooky new gen 3 Pokemon would join the app at Halloween.

“The Halloween season is a special time in Pokemon Go,” the post reads.

“Plenty of good stuff is coming to the game later this October, and we can’t wait to get out and about to see what sort of excitement we can scare up while catching new Pokemon to fill out our Pokedex.”

Gen 3 Ghost Types include Shuppet, Banette, Mega Banette, Duskull and Dusclops, which is a nice selection for a limited time Halloween event.

One Pokemon that definitely won’t be joining the game is Oh-Ho.

A leaked Niantic email supposedly confirmed plans to add Oh-Ho to the game as part of an imminent Legendary Raid.

Unfortunately, the email wasn’t actually sent out by Niantic, so you’ll have to wait a little longer for Oh-Ho Raids.

That’s according to a Niantic employee, who told Reddit users: “I reviewed our support ticketing system and I can confirm that our support team did not send this erroneous message.”

It’s been speculated that a new Legendary Raid will launch alongside Gen 3 Pokemon and the upcoming Halloween event.

Dystopian What Happened To Monday? may hint at Netflix’s film priorities

The trailer for What Happened to Monday?

Warning: This piece contains mild spoilers for Netflix’s What Happened to Monday?

Halfway through its major 2017 original film push, Netflix seems to have more hits than misses. That’s not to say the company has had its Stranger Things equivalent; none of Netflix’s films has captured popular conversation as sweepingly as traditional offerings like Get Out or Baby Driver. Maybe the Brad Pitt-driven War Machine fizzled, but Okja and The Discovery became favorites around the Ars Slack water cooler, while smaller projects like Joe Swanberg’s Win It All keep hope alive that future Netflix films like the high-profile Bright (Will Smith and elf cops?) and the smaller Death Note (supernatural manga adaptation just released) can still deliver this year.

Critical wins and losses for these projects may be the headline grabber, but Netflix continues to grow as a film company in a less flashy, more traditional manner: as a distributor. “Netflix original” these days seems to encompass both films produced for Netflix with invested streaming money (see War MachineBright) and a bevy of films the company picks up after they’re previewed on the festival circuit.

Every major film festival these days is followed by a round of announcements where Amazon and Netflix engage in an arms war to snag the best and most unique content. Almost precisely one year ago, the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival proved no different. IndieWire proclaimed Netflix’s spending there “left few acquisition targets for traditional distributors,” as the company snagged things like a biopic about a young President Obama called Barry.

Released this week, Netflix’s What Happened To Monday? represents another TIFF 2016 acquisition finally reaching home audiences. The film may also nicely demonstrate the type of general acquisitions Netflix makes these days. It’s from a relatively young director (Tommy Wirkola, of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters fame). It has a niche premise and audience (dystopian sci-fi). It doesn’t have to meet any particular set of expectations that come with more traditional distributors.

Honestly, this could be the first you’re even hearing of What Happened To Monday? despite some big names in the cast. That’s a shame, because the film offers enough interesting material to merit a two-hour Netflix distraction.

What is this again?

What Happened To Monday? opens with the oldest trick in the dystopian film playbook: an explanatory sequence done via a bad news media clip collage. Over the last 50 years, Earth’s population has doubled while food and water usage tripled and fossil fuel usage quadrupled. President Obama’s famed “I believe in climate change” UN speech leads into the introduction of our main character, Karen Settman (Noomi Rapace), as she orders a to-go meal with some percentage of supplemental rat meat blended in.

Technically, we only meet this Karen Settman at first. Given the dire situation for humanity and the planet, a government agency called the Child Allocation Board has been established to ban siblings. Led by a catchy slogan (“One Child. One Earth.”), politician Nicolette Cayman (Glenn Close) pushes the legislation as a means of preserving natural resources and improving quality of life for those currently living. Families may each have a single child, but any additional kids born will be placed in Cryofreeze, a temperature induced-stasis to keep someone free from hunger, safe from harm, and ready to “awake to a better world,” as Cayman puts it.

Flash back 30 years, and we see Karen Settman began life as one of seven in the early days of the CAB. Papa (Willem Dafoe) lost a daughter during a complicated childbirth, so he can’t bear to turn his new granddaughters in to this new government initiative. Instead, he builds hidden rooms in their apartment, hacks the government-issued tracking bracelet he received for a single child, and trains the girls from birth to function as a unit. Each will get to go into the outside world—where merchants, door people, and cops scan bracelets as you enter and exit zones for residence, school, work, etc.—just one day a week, and they’ll be responsible to share everything with their sisters before bed to perpetuate Karen Settman. As such, Papa names the girls after the days of the week.

The plan, remarkably, works for those 30 years with only a few minor (albeit horrific) incidents. But now as full adults with distinct personalities, the would-be Settman sisters harbor a little dissent during their evening meals and meetings.

“it’s just a mask—one day a week we get to go into the real world and we can’t even be ourselves,” Thursday laments during the film’s opening rat dinner. As a child, she once escaped to skateboard on the streets for a few hours and nearly severed her finger, which lead to, well, Papa needing to create identical little girl fingers. As an adult, she maintains this adventurous desire for independence, and she dreams of relationships or of wearing the clothes and hair she (and not Karen Settman) chooses. “This isn’t a life,” she declares. “It’s a sad, agonizing, soul-sucking death.”

But given the tight surveillance and data collection done by the government, such complaints stay within the Settman apartment for now. Dinner arguments fade, and the sisters hold their evening meeting to prep for a promotion presentation at work. Luckily Monday—calm and collected, seen as a leader among the group—will be the one doing Karen duty for that one. But they never hear how the meeting went. Monday, as the film’s title suggests, appears to have gone missing.

The Settman sisters enjoying a delightful, rat-infused dinner.
Enlarge / The Settman sisters enjoying a delightful, rat-infused dinner.

Netflix

Quietly worth a stream

What Happened To Monday? probably hasn’t gotten the big marketing push of some of its Netflix brethren because a sense of familiarity hangs over this film. Orphan Black already did the one-actor-several-roles thing. Dystopian futures with varying degrees of population control have been all over the mainstream (Hunger Games) and independent scene (Domain). Close, Defoe, and Rapace all have cache normally worth trumpeting (especially Rapace, given she’ll be co-starring in Bright with Smith), but you’d be hard-pressed to know this film hit the streaming service this week just by logging on. We didn’t even receive a press release, and Netflix has previously sent us notes for things like Last Chance U, something called Haters Back Off, and a Tony Robbins documentary (admittedly that last one sounded interesting).

Despite the lack of pre-release energy, What Happened To Monday? has plenty to enjoy, starting with its lead. Rapace never lets you consciously think about the CGI happening all around her. Despite the script relying on quick stereotypes (smart one, sporty one, rebel, etc.) to establish differences, Rapace plays all the sisters confidently. She inhabits the unique personalities for each in an understated way and avoids crossing the line into caricature. The film doesn’t place the actor in many logistically compromising situations, either, as the initial dinner scene feels like the only instance of seven. But even as the story progresses and the interactions between sisters grow more tense, the emotions and confrontations continue to feel real.

Rapace has plenty of opportunity to flex those old Girl With The Dragon Tattoo muscles, as well, because What Happened To Monday? delivers more unflinching action and gore than expected (the film would easily earn an R rating with a traditional release). Despite the near-future tech flourishes—the holo-interfaces, prevalent surveillance, perfected cryo-tech, etc.—the overall world is gray and run-down. Combined with some brutal violence and high-tension sequences, it places a layer of grim anxiety over much of the film. You may end up watching multiple passages through your fingers, usually in that “but I can’t look away, either” manner.

As her opposite, Close stays chillingly evil as Cayman, and she serves as another instance of what’s quickly becoming a new villain trope: the Silicon Valley-style prophet promising to fix the world through technology (see also Tilda Swinton in Okja or maybe Andrew Scott in Spectre).

“I think the most interesting villains in film are the villains who are kind of right. Their means are wrong and the way they’re doing it is wrong, but their worldview is kind of right,” Wirkola told The Verge. “Humans are very bad at making hard decisions and planning for the future, so in many ways Glenn Close’s character is right. But of course, what she’s doing is very wrong.”

Ostensibly, the film nods to worries about climate change and diminishing resources—or maybe it encourages embracing individuality. But What Happened to Monday? reveals itself to actually be more about the dangers of blind faith in tech, propaganda, or the will of deceitful and oppressive regimes to do anything to preserve perception and message. While made well in advance of our current geopolitical climate (the script, originally focused on brothers, made rounds all the way back in 2010), such underlying topics could have certainly merited some promotion and warranted fan interest on their own.

But, again, creating a good (aka critically beloved) movie seems to be more of a priority for Netflix when it invests in a project from the start. As a pure distributor, things like building its library in specific ways (more dystopian sci-fi, check), connecting with young directors and stars that may become future collaborators (Rapace, Wirkola, check), and establishing itself as a major player during events like TIFF instead appear to reign supreme. You could say the formula applied to recent acquisition hits like The Incredible Jessica James (a rom-com, with former Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams, purchased at Sundance), too.

So we’ll tell you about What Happened To Monday? because it’s fun enough for genre fans despite some imperfections and familiarity. But we’ll also continue keep an eagle eye on Netflix’s quiet-yet-obvious quest for critics’-darling status in the streaming world.

Listing image by Netflix