Almonds, garlic, bread and... grapes? What kind of strange brew is this? If you're willing to take a chance on this creamy, refreshing cold summer soup, you'll discover a dish destined to become one of your all-time favorites. An added bonus: it's a great way to turn that beginning-to-go-stale bread into something more than bread crumbs. Trust us; this soup is great. (Particularly if you're a garlic lover.)

Ajo Blanco, "white garlic," has long been a favorite summer soup in the Malaga, Spain region. While more traditional versions do without the chicken stock and croutons, this one has always been my favorite. Step-by-step photos illustrating how to make this soup are available at Bakers’ Banter, our King Arthur blog.

8 to 10 slices (about 10 ounces) stale white bread
2 cups (8 3/4 ounces) blanched slivered almonds
6 to 9 cloves garlic (more or less to taste)
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) olive oil
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) red wine vinegar
2 cups (or one 14-ounce can) chicken broth
1 1/2 to 2 cups (12 to 16 ounces) ice water

12 slices stale white bread (a 1-pound loaf), cut into crouton-sized cubes
2 to 3 tablespoons (7/8 ounce to 1 1/4 ounces) olive oil
1 large bunch seedless green grapes

For soup: Combine the 8 to 10 slices stale white bread and cold water to cover in a small bowl. Let sit until bread is soaked, about 5 to 10 minutes. Squeeze water from bread, set bread aside, and discard water.

Combine almonds, garlic, and salt in a large-sized food processor or blender. Process until almonds are completely ground. Add soaked bread; process till smooth. With motor running, gradually add oil, then vinegar. Process, stopping to scrape sides of bowl occasionally, until mixture is smooth.

Add the 2 cups of broth, and blend again until smooth. Add 1 1/2 cups of the water, stir, then thin the soup with additional water, if desired. Pour the mixture into a large bowl. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

For garnish: Drizzle the bottom of a large baking sheet with olive oil. Toss the bread cubes with olive oil, and place them on the baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for about 30 minutes, until the cubes are crisp and light golden brown.

To serve: Remove soup from refrigerator and stir a few times to make sure all the elements are combined. Ladle into bowls, and top with generous amounts of croutons and green grapes. Makes about 9 cups, about 8 servings.

Just A Hint... Bring creamed soup to the table in a pitcher. That way each family member, or guest, can serve him- or herself just the right amount. Also, a pitcher is usually less messy than a bowl and ladle, takes up less space, and is easier for kids to handle without spilling. Well...without spilling too much.

This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. II, No. 7, July 1991 issue.

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