British savoury-snack maker Jacob's has on-boarded Oxford University food scientist, Charles Michel, to create the perfect cheese and cracker formula for consumers to enjoy this Christmas. Charles has been experimenting with the nation's much loved Jacob's Cream Cracker, to uncover the exact quantity of ingredients and the perfect balance of different flavour sensations needed to create the most delicious combination, tapping into all of our taste buds and senses.
Following Jacob's partnering with musician and foodie Alex James as its new Chief Taste Curator earlier this year, his award-winning, artisan cheeses were used as part of the experiment, including Goddess, Blue Monday, and Farleigh Wallop.

For optimum enjoyment of cracker and cheese, the science reveals that there are six multisensory elements that must be present in each serving, and all five tastes must be included: salt, sweet, sour, bitter and umami. The right balance of flavour is key, so using the correct measurement of each ingredient and layering the ingredients in the right order is a must – see the six steps below.

Six steps to create the perfect cheese and cracker formula this Christmas:

1. Cracker

The crunchier the better – which is why a very crunchy cracker works better than bread to enhance your enjoyment, as it will contrast even more with the toppings. Using a fresh Jacob's Cream Cracker straight from the packet offers the perfect level of crunch.

2. Sonic layer
Sound is the forgotten flavour sense; the sound made by a food really can make it taste better, so a cheese and cracker pairing must have both soft and crunchy components. Therefore, an additional layer of a contrasting texture on top of the cracker enhances our pleasure.

3. Umami layer
Adding Umami-rich elements to cheese will increase the deliciousness and mouthfulness. In small quantities, strong-flavoured, Umami packed foods like anchovies, prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and Marmite, will perfectly complement your cheese and cracker pairing.

4. Sweet layer
An element of sweet (such as honey or dried fruit) will balance the taste equation to maximise flavour enjoyment.

5. Cheese layer
The piece of cheese must perfectly cover the cracker's surface by 72%. When served on a Jacob's Cream Cracker, the slice should measure 5.5cm, by 1cm thickness. Cheese should be served at no less than room temperature (16-20 degrees) so that the texture and flavour intensity is at its best.

6. Visual / Olfactory layer
Smell is probably the dominant component of flavour, and depends mostly on the quality and freshness of the ingredients. It is commonly known that “we eat with our eyes first”, so food must look good to be enticing, and is a determining aspect of the enjoyment of the overall experience – so make it colorful and artistic.

The scientific insights are revealed just in time for Christmas – helping people create the perfect cheeseboard combinations to serve at a Christmas party, including the all-time festive favourite smoked salmon and cream cheese, as well as the classic cheddar and prosciutto combination.

Charles Michel, Oxford University Food Scientist, said, “Cheese and crackers are such a timeless combination, I jumped at the chance to work on coming up with a science-based formula for it. I've tried to create the perfect balance of ingredients needed to effectively stimulate all the senses to enjoy the most delicious cheese and cracker mouthful with Jacob's Cream Crackers – all in time for Christmas. Take note for any cheeseboards you plan on serving during the festive period!”

Alex James, Chief Taste Curator for Jacob's, said, “The science of food fascinates me, I've always liked to experiment with pulling different flavours together – for instance my Blue Monday cheese works really well with sweeter accompaniments like honey and pears. An absolutely cracking combination, backed up now by Charles' scientific findings.”