Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over high heat and add the onions, garlic cloves, bay leaves, salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are caramelized, about 7 minutes. Don't let onions get too dark; they should be sweet-tasting and a rich golden-brown color.
Stir in the stock, minced garlic, basil and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer about 40 minutes. Increase the heat to high, whisk in the bread and cream and continue whisking until bread has dissolved in the soup, about 10 minutes. Whisk in the Parmesan and remove from heat. Pureé soup in a food processor or blender; do this in batches, if necessary. To serve, allow 1 generous cup per portion topped with croutons.
Yield: 5 1/2 cups / 4 servings