I’ve been scouring my bookshelf lately looking for a particular book, but I just can’t seem to locate it. You see, I have a lot of books; between my bookshelves, yes plural, and my electronic reading devices, there are just too many of them, and sometimes the plotlines begin to blur and characters get transplanted into unfamiliar settings.
Anyway, the point is that I was looking for this particular book that I can’t remember the name of or the author. I don’t even really remember the storyline, other than the fact that the main group of characters would meet for lunch every day at their local Panera Bread.
You see, it was this book that introduced me to Panera Bread. We don’t have any here and I was intrigued by the author’s description of the place. So I googled it. About a year or so later when we were planning our trip to America, Panera Bread was one of the first food places I noted down as wanting to visit.
Why would I want to visit a bakery-come-café type of chain when I could eat anywhere I wanted to whilst visiting a new country? For the broccoli-cheddar soup of course!
Think what you will, but any cheese other than parmesan in a soup for me was a new concept up until recently. And where better to try the thick and creamy soup but from the very establishment that made it so popular?
Understandably, Panera Bread won’t share its recipe. That’s where the Food Network comes in. They feature their version of the soup in their ‘Almost Famous’ section, and it’s pretty close to tasting just like the Panera Bread version I had during our travels.
Now as you can see from my picture, I did not use bread bowls to serve the soup. I don’t do soggy foods, remember? I also got a little carried away with my immersion blender, so if you want a more chunky soup, make sure not to blend the soup too much. Finally, this is not a healthy broccoli soup recipe, but it is so worth the calories.
Recipe by Food Network Magazine, which can be found on their website.
- 85g tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 small onion (chopped)
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup single cream
- 1 cup milk
- 3 cups vegetarian stock (or chicken stock)
- 2 bay leaves
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 4 cups broccoli florets (chopped into small pieces)
- 1 large carrot (diced)
- 2 ½ cups sharp white and yellow cheddar cheese (grated, plus more for garnishing)
- 4 7-inch sourdough bread boules (round loaves)
- Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
- Whisk in the flour and cook until golden, 3 to 4 minutes, then gradually whisk in the milk and single cream until smooth.
- Add the vegetable (or chicken stock), bay leaves and nutmeg, then season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until thickened, about 20 minutes.
- If using bread bowls, prepare them now. Using a sharp knife, cut a circle into the top of each loaf, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Remove the bread top, then hollow out the middle with a fork or your fingers, leaving a thick bread shell.
- Back to the soup… Add the broccoli and carrot to the broth mixture and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.
- Discard the bay leaves and then puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender until smooth (or in batches using a blender and then return to the pot).
- Add the cheese to the soup and whisk over medium-heat until melted.
- If the soup looks too thick, add up to ¾ cup of water.
- Ladle into bowls or bread bowls, garnish with extra shredded cheese and serve.