The cheese plate is a time-honoured classic at any dinner party. It's versatile, easy to put together and, with so many cheeses to choose from, you can come up with an original platter every time. Although you can simply serve chunks of cheese for guests to nibble on, accompany crumbly cheddar, creamy Brie and zesty blue cheese with crackers to lend a bit of elegance and additional texture to your platter. Crackers should complement the flavour of the cheese -- not overwhelm it.
Strongly flavoured cheeses, such as an aged mushroomy Brie, should be allowed to revel in their true earthiness. Sharp cheddar cheese, which may be aged for five years or more, and nutty chèvre -- fresh goat's cheese -- are also at their best when served with a plain, crispy cracker. Water crackers, which are made from simply water, flour and salt, hold up well when soft cheeses are spread on them. Thin rice crackers also have a neutral flavour and crisp texture. Since they're made with rice, not wheat, they're also a good alternative for guests who have allergies or food sensitivities.
Serve flavoured crackers with mild cheeses, such as mozzarella or cream cheese. Water crackers studded with cracked pepper lend a bit of bite to Gouda or Gruyere, without actually imparting an extra flavour to the cheese itself. You can almost think of this cracker as a condiment. Sesame crackers are nutty, naturally, but subtle, making them another good choice for pairing with delicately flavoured cheeses.
Crackers with Fruit
Dried fruits are a natural accompaniment to cheeses. Dates, apricots, cherries and even apples and pears have deep, sweet flavours and aromas that elevate even the richest cheeses. Blue cheeses, such as Roquefort and Stilton, can stand up to a rustic cracker that has some dates or apricots baked right inside. The chewy texture of the fruit and cracker lends another dimension to creamy blue cheeses. This pairing is a classic, updated.
Similar to dried fruits, nuts are a great cheese paring. The flavour of the nuts bring out similar qualities in cheeses. Nut crackers are a great choice if you don't have dried nuts on hand. Find artisan crackers that are filled with toasted hazelnuts and other seeds like flax. You can also find crackers made from nuts, such as almond crackers, at grocery stores. These crackers have a crunchy texture and the almond flavour is present but not overwhelming, so it simply enhances the cheese. Almond crackers are often made of almond flour, so they're another wheat-free alternative.
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