For a place with a carb-forward name, Panera Bread sells a lot of soup: nearly 250 million cups per year. Broccoli Cheddar has been the chain’s perennial best seller, and the creamy Baked Potato Soup has never been far behind. The company took the potato soup off most menus permanently in January, and although we’re not sure why it disappeared, we have a fix: Our test kitchen chefs created this version you can make at home.
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel–lined plate.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, scallion whites and a big pinch of salt to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add the flour, celery seeds and white pepper; stir until combined.
Add the potatoes, 3 1/2 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt to the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are tender but not falling apart, about 10 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat and transfer 1/2 cup of the potatoes to a blender. Add the half-and-half, cream cheese and parmesan and blend until very smooth. Gently stir the mixture into the pot along with the scallion greens, hot sauce and half of the bacon. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat; season with salt.
Divide the soup among bowls. Top with cheddar cheese, the remaining bacon and chives.