A guide to thoroughly enjoy each bite!
A typical charcuterie tray has a variety of cheese and cured meats, accompanied by sweet or spicy dips, dried and fresh fruit, an assortment of breads and crackers, pickled vegetables and nuts. So right off the bat there are dozens of combinations that can be created, and honestly, not many bad ones! But we are after achieving the perfect bite every single time!
So, how do we make sure we are elevating every combination to harmonize each flavour for that perfect bite?
When we asked a group of people what they consider the perfect bite is, we got a wide range of answers! From the tip of a pepperoni pizza, to the last bite of an ice cream cone. We noticed what was in common across the board. All perfect bites had a combination of both flavour and texture profiles.
There are so many different flavour profiles out there but the ones most commonly found on a charcuterie board would be savoury umami, sweet, salty, tangy, and spicy. For textures we see firm, crunchy, creamy, and chewy. Texture can go even further to be distinguished between dry and moisture content as well. So what do we do with all of these characteristics? Well, since variety is the spice of life, it is important to have at least 2 of these characteristics from the flavour and texture profiles present in each perfect bite!
It’s all about fining a balance and mixing flavours and textures that compliment each other. When building a perfect bite on a cracker for example, the cracker is going to be crunchy and dry, so adding in elements with higher moisture content will help balance the dryness of the cracker. When building a perfect bite on a slice of baguette, the baguette will be chewy with a little more moisture than the cracker would, so balancing it with some crunchier toppings will help you in achieving that perfect bite.
Time to start putting together some bites and recognizing textures in different cheeses that will play a huge role in constructing the perfect bite. Hot top: when making a charcuterie board using a variety of different types of cheese will elevate the board!
Popular soft cheese are Brie, ricotta feta, cream cheese, camembert, and cottage cheese. All of these cheeses have a rich, buttery, slight tang to them, they are the creamiest of the cheeses and have a spreadable constancy.
For our soft cheese perfect bite we are highlighting Brie! Brie is a more mild cheese that has a rich, buttery, fruity flavour. We recommend keeping the rind on to enjoy the subtle earthy flavour it adds. Brie is so versatile which is why you will be familiar with it and may have even cooked with it before.
Brie, Pear, Baguette – Keeping it simple with this first one, but don’t let the simplicity fool you, this is a perfect bite almost everyone loves! When breaking it down to understand why its so supreme lets first discuss the texture profiles we are working with. We have chewy from the baguette, creamy from the brie, and a crisp crunch from the pear. The flavour profiles of this bite include a rich creamy and buttery flavour from the brie, and a tangy-sweet element from the pear. When all combined and layered on a baguette slice all of the extremes of each flavour and texture profile are immediately balanced by the other elements in the bite!
The hard cheese category is home to a lot of favourites! This category can be separated even further into hard and semi-hard, but for the purposes of the perfect bite, they can be categorized together. Cheddar, Parmesan, gouda, Swiss, Havarti, and Manchego, are just a few of my favourites. Hard cheeses typically will have strong umami flavours that bring depth wherever they go. They often start subtle with a slight tang, the flavour will definitely linger on the pallet, followed by a sharp finish.
We have chosen to highlight Aged Gouda. It is not as firm as some cheeses like Parmesan and can fall into the sub group semi-hard, it develops an almost crunchy texture from the crystallization that happens in the aging process. This also creates a deeper colour than a non aged gouda, and a more concentrated flavour of toffee and brown butter, reminiscent of butterscotch or toasted nuts.
Aged Gouda, Dried Apricot, Cracker – When construction a perfect bite with a firm cheese its important to remember that firm cheeses will most commonly have stronger taste profiles as well. An aged gouda will have a rich, nutty, and sometimes caramel taste to it. Making sure to cut through some of those bold flavour profiles is where the apricot comes in. The apricot also adds a soft chewy element to this bite which pairs perfectly with the crunch of the cracker and the firmness of the cheese.
Fresh cheese is a term common referring to a young cheese in its purest form and have not yet been pressed or aged. Some examples are fluffy ricotta, creamy goat cheese, soft mozzarella, and crumbly feta. These cheese are also popular for cooking due to their simplicity and versatility, and can even replace cream in some recipes.
We have chosen to highlight goat cheese, its a stable for all charcuterie boards in my home! Goat cheese has a very unique flavour profile you don’t find in many other cheeses.
Goat Cheese, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Wafer Crisp – This combination is designed around the goat cheese. Goat cheese has a tart and tangy flavour, it is so soft and spreadable it is the perfect vehicle to elevate a wide range of flavour profiles and textures. Pairing it with a wafer crips (a thin cracker) allows for the goat cheese to remain the focus of the bite. The sun-dried tomatoes have a chewy texture and sweet flavour which tones down the tangy tart flavour of the goat cheese.
Blue cheese has been rumoured to have been made by accident! The story is a cheese maker forgot a half eaten loaf of bread in a moist cheese cave, and when he returned he discovered the mould covering his bread had become blue cheese! You’ll either love it or hate it. Blue Cheese is one of those polarizing foods that you’ll rarely meet someone indifferent to the taste.
Blue Cheese, Walnut, Honey, Oat Cracker – Blue Cheese is soft, creamy, and crumbly in texture, and has a very sharp taste of salty and spicy. Not your average red pepper type of spice, but the taste of blue mold gives off a unique spice flavour. Adding sweet elements from the honey and oat cracker will help balance the spice, and the mild, slightly tangy, crunch from the walnut will round this bite off perfectly! This combination can even be the one that transform a blue cheese hater into a lover!
There isn’t just one perfect bite, there are thousands! We hope this guide will keep you thinking next time you are enjoying a charcuterie tray or any dish!