The one hard and fast rule seems to be: never mash your cheese into the bread or you’ll scandalise all the French people at your table.
Cheese and bread go together like the moon and the stars, or noodles and nom banh chuk. But we spend so much time thinking about the cheeses we want to enjoy that we often forget to think about the fact that the bread is not just the means for transporting the cheese from plate to mouth, but can be a flavour (and joy) accelerant that can really bring out the best in your cheese. While specific pairings don’t exist in the same way that you’ll find for cheese and wines, there are some rough guides you can follow to maximise the unique pleasures of a plate of bread and cheese, from the mildest to the strongest and everything in between.
When pairing, you can either look for contrast or harmony and that can apply to both taste and texture. With the former, you might combine a soft, mild goats cheese with a crisp, strongly flavoured bread like toasted medium rye, or a firm, well-matured Comté with a soft, chewy and mellow baker’s baguette. Half-rye breads, especially ryes made with nuts such as walnuts, are highly recommended for the majority of cheeses in fact, although a full-rye might be a bit too strong.
Most of the advice in this area though prefers to find harmony in the union, like an excellent marriage. Therefore, a sour and tangy sourdough is recommended for cheeses like Roquefort, and the more pronounced blue cheeses such as those from the Auvergne, Époisses, Munster cheese and mature goats cheeses.
Meanwhile, the milder baguettes and loaves made with baker’s yeast, are suggested for the mellower cheeses such as brie, younger goats cheeses, firm Cantal, firm Emmental and Comté.
Another great option for blue cheeses or mature uncooked cheeses such as Comté is to find a wholewheat bread whose nuttiness is able to work with the strength of the cheese, without being overwhelmed by it.
Other fun pairings might include putting together a deliciously nutty Comté with a seedy or nut-studded bread, or a zesty and smooth young goats cheese with the soft-acidic tang of sourdough.
Toasting the bread is a wonderful way to create texture and contrast with the cheese, though care should be taken not to over-toast the bread, or the aggressive flavour starts to outcompete the cheese.
All that as it is, whatever bread you like is always the right bread to go with whatever cheese you like. The one hard and fast rule seems to be: never mash your cheese into the bread or you’ll scandalise all the French people at the table.