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Panera Bread

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    Panera’s top soup pick in the summer is a creamy vegetarian chowder that’s full of flavor and easy to copy at home once you know an important flavor secret. I started my hack using a vegetable broth, since that’s what all the other “copycats” call for, but I found its strong vegetable flavor dominated the soup, so I quickly bailed on that plan.

    Starting over, I referred to the soup’s ingredients posted online by Panera Bread and noticed there is no broth in the soup, which means every copycat recipe online is wrong. I didn’t want to make the same mistake in my recipe, but without the broth my soup would be lacking some important flavor components, and that’s no good either.

    In many soup recipes, the broth or stock is important for the umami quality provided by the yeast extract added to the product. Yeast extracts are one of the many ways food manufacturers add an MSG flavor-enhancing effect without adding MSG. Panera does in fact list “yeast extract” as one of the ingredients in the soup, so I needed to find a readily available ingredient that would provide the same savory quality.

    Enter nutritional yeast—or “nooch” as it’s often called—a flakey, nutrient-packed, vegan ingredient that’s growing quickly in popularity thanks to the savory, cheesy flavor it adds to a variety of foods (it’s great on popcorn). Nooch is also popular with vegans and vegetarians since it’s fortified with vitamin B12, an essential nutrient that's mainly found in animal-sourced foods.

    Now, with nooch in there, along with yellow corn, red-skin potatoes, poblano peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, and other tasty things, no broth is required. Just give it water and a little patience.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    Other recipes I’ve seen that claim to duplicate the fabulous flavor of this popular soup do not make good clones, yet the long grain and wild rice mix that many of these recipes call for is a great way to get the exact amount of rice you need in a perfect blend. Just be sure not to use the flavor packet that comes with those rice kits, or you won’t get a good clone of the Panera original. Toss out that blend (or you can use it elsewhere; see Tidbits) and use the recipe below to make a better flavoring for the soup.

    Thanks to Panera Bread's policy of completely transparent ingredients, I discovered a surprising ingredient or two (wow, cabbage!), and was able to craft the best clone you’ll find for this top secret signature soup.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    Since Panera Bread makes all its ingredients known, it's not hard to find out that there’s no chicken broth in the original recipe, yet every copycat recipe I located online calls for chicken broth, as well as other ingredients clearly not found in Panera's version. Unlike those other recipes, this hack uses the same or similar ingredients to those listed on the company’s website.

    One of the ingredients in the soup, according to the posted list, is yeast extract. This tasty ingredient adds an MSG-like savoriness to Panera’s soup, and we can duplicate it by using nutritional yeast—often called "nooch"—now found in many stores, including Whole Foods. A little bit of nooch will provide the umami deliciousness that replaces chicken broth or bouillon.

    Panera keeps its soup gluten-free by thickening it with a combination of rice flour and cornstarch, rather than wheat flour. I’ve included those ingredients as well so that your clone is similarly gluten-free. Use the steps below and in about an hour you’ll have 8 servings of a soup that is a culinary doppelganger to Panera Bread's all-time favorite soup, and at a mere fraction of the cost.

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    Panera’s turkey chili is a wholesome and flavorful mix of dark meat turkey, beans, tomatoes, chilies, carrots, onions, and spices that’s easy to hack at home, once you know the secrets. I found that adding turkey in two forms—ground and sliced—resulted in the best copy. The sliced turkey should be dark meat, if possible, but if you can’t find uncooked, sliced dark meat, white meat is fine. It doesn’t finish quite as tender and flavorful as the dark meat, but it still works.

    To further improve flavor, I’m slipping in some nutritional yeast, which acts like MSG. Panera uses a natural yeast extract similar to this in many of their soups to improve flavor, so we’ll do the same. You can find nutritional yeast, or “nooch,” at Whole Foods or another well-stocked food store. If you can’t track it down, add another ¼ teaspoon of salt to the pot.

    And take note that you won’t be adding the edamame until the latter half of the cooking process. We do it this way so that when the chili is ready, the edamame will still be green, rather than the unappetizing grey color that can curse overcooked soybeans.

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    Score: 4.00. Votes: 1

    After the success of Panera Bread’s Cinnamon Crunch Bagels, the popular sandwich chain went back into the development kitchen and came out with these incredible scones, filled with the same crunchy cinnamon drops found in the bagels and drizzled with cinnamon icing.

    When first released, these scones were cut as triangles and frosted, but in 2018 the shape was changed to more “rustic”-shaped round blobs with drizzled or piped icing on top. I like to hack the latest recipe, so the newer version of this pastry is the version I’ve re-created here.

    These are cream scones, so cream is the main wet ingredient that holds the dough together—but keep the dough crumbly as you mix it, and try not to compress it much, or you risk making the final product too dense. The best way to form the scones is to use both hands and shape the dough like you’re making a loose snowball. Then use one hand to place the dough onto the baking sheet and form it into a rough dome shape. The scones will flatten and spread out a little bit as they bake.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 2

    The weather’s cooler, the days are shorter, and pumpkin spice lattes are back in style. When fall arrives, it brings with it the traditional edibles we have come to expect. Usually, that’s something warm and/or orange and/or with squash in it. Panera’s top fall-release soup is all of the above. And its great taste inspired this new hack.

    On Panera’s ingredients statement for this soup, there is no specification for which types of squash are used. The ingredients mention only “squash,” so it’s possible there is more than one type of squash in it. Butternut squash has a great taste and rich orange color, so that’s an obvious choice, but I am also adding another flavorful squash to our pot: acorn squash. Its flesh is golden in color and tastes like pumpkin, but it’s sweeter and more buttery. I found the blended color and flavor from the combination of both butternut squash and acorn squash worked perfectly here.

    The flavor of the soup is created with several spices including cinnamon, curry, and cardamom, plus ginger puree, honey, apple juice, and Neufchatel cheese. Just a little cream at the end gives the soup body and a smooth richness you will love.

    When the soup is thick, serve it hot with freshly toasted pumpkin seeds sprinkled on top, and taste the season.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 6

    Panera Bread's Baked Spinach and Artichoke Egg Souffle reminds me of a breakfast Hot Pocket, if a Hot Pocket tasted really good. With eggs, cheese, spinach, and artichoke hearts baked into a buttery crust, this super-cool presentation will earn you big bonus points from your crew in the a.m. And the best part about this copycat Panera spinach souffle recipe is you won't stress out over making the dough from scratch since you use premade Pillsbury Crescent Dough that comes in a tube. Just be sure when you unroll the dough that you don't separate it into triangles. Instead, pinch the dough together along the diagonal perforations to make four squares. After the dough is rolled out, line four buttered ramekins with each square, fill each ramekin with the secret egg mixture, and bake. 

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.32. Votes: 22

    The easy-melting, individually-wrapped Kraft Cheddar Singles are a perfect secret ingredient for this Panera Bread broccoli cheddar soup recipe that's served at this top soup stop. In this clone, fresh broccoli is first steamed, then diced into little bits before you combine it with chicken broth, half-and-half, shredded carrot, and onion. Now you're just 30 minutes away from soup spoon go-time.

    Click here for more of my copycat Panera Bread recipes. 

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 3.75. Votes: 4

    I found the best way to get good cranberry flavor and light pink color into this clone is to use concentrated cranberry juice found in the frozen food section of your market. First, thaw the juice, then shake the canister before you open it. After you've measured out the 3 tablespoons of concentrate you'll need for this recipe, make the rest of the concentrate into juice and sip it with your freshly baked bagel clones. The most important step for commercial-quality chewy bagels is no secret: a thorough kneading process. Add flour to your hands if the bagels begin to stick while you form them. Any excess flour on the bagels will wash off when you drop them in the boiling water. Boiling the bagels before baking is called "kettling," and it's this step that gives bagels their shiny crust.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.16. Votes: 19

    The biggest difference I find with Panera's formula versus other onion soup recipes is the inclusion of a small, almost undetectable, bit of tomato sauce. But rather than opening up a whole can of tomato sauce to use just 1 tablespoon in this home kitchen copy, I found that a squirt of ketchup works perfectly. Panera Bread also makes their soup with just a bit of heat, so we'll add a little Tabasco pepper sauce to the pot to wake everything up. The croutons on top of the soup appear to be made from the chain's focaccia bread that has been buttered, cubed, and toasted until crispy, but you can use any bread you may have on hand. As for the cheese on top, the menu says it's Asiago-Parmesan, but the cheese I tasted was more Asiago than Parmesan, so you'll need to use only Asiago cheese (that's been shaved using a potato peeler) for a great clone.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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