The patent-pending method produces a product with “the same or similar consistency, taste and appearance, and is suitable for the same applications as soy-based tofu," says the application, filed by Arla Foods in July 2014.
Tofu, which is eaten widely across Asia, is made by curdling fresh soy milk, pressing it into a block and cooling it.
Arla believes the milk-based, tofu-like, sliceable product its method produces could appeal to existing tofu eaters.
“Tofu is a staple ingredient in the diet of many countries, and it would be desirable to produce a milk-based product with the same appeal to these consumers,” its application reads.
“Furthermore, milk may be considered to have a higher nutritional value as it contains more essential amino acids than tofu.”
The international patent application, published earlier this week, details an “improved” step-by-step method for the production of a sliceable dairy product “where the ingredient mix is packaged while in liquid form and solidifies when heated in the packaging.”
First, a liquid ingredient mix comprised of milk, whey protein, an edible acid, and sodium chloride and/or sodium hydroxide is prepared, then brought to a temperature of no more than 70C, which adjusts the pH to between 5.5 and 8.
Salt is added optionally, and the ingredient mix is homogenized - the process of breaking fat globules down into smaller droplets so they stay suspended in milk.
The homogenized mix is then filled into packaging and heated at between 90C and 155C for between 30 seconds and nine hours, during which time it forms into "a sliceable dairy product with a long shelf-life without the use of preservatives."
Sliceable dairy products, such as brick cheese, are typically packaged “having been shaped to their final form.”
This method, according to Arla, leaves the final product susceptible to contamination, and in turn short shelf-life.
"This is a complex method from a process viewpoint, and moreover exposes the product to risk of contamination. The contamination can lead to shorter shelf-life and earlier spoilage of the product," the Arla application reads.
"Improvements leading to simpler and more efficient production processes are sought after. Further, longer shelf-life is desired because distribution is simpler and more efficient if it does not have to reply on cold chains and/or having to reach the consumer rapidly."
"Hence, an improved method for preparing sliceable dairy products, particularly where the products have extended shelf life, would be advantageous," it added.
Source: WPO Publication No: WO/2015/001057
Published: 08/01/2015 Filed: 03/07/2014
Title: Sliceable dairy product with extended shelf life.
Authors: Christina Caroe Tjornelund, Klaus Juhl Jensen, Mads Friis Ostergaard-Clausen.