1Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, pierce the potatoes and place them on a baking sheet. Bake for one hour, remove from oven and cool.
2Heat a large stockpot over high heat. Add the bacon pieces and garlic; cook until bacon is rendered down and browned, be careful not to burn. Remove the pot from the heat and reduce to med-high heat. Drain and reserve the fat off the bacon. Place the cooked bacon on a plate covered w/two paper towels to remove the remaining fat. Measure the reserved bacon fat for 1/2 c. Place back into the stockpot, whisk in the flour and cook for a few minutes to remove the flour taste.
3Reduce heat to medium and whisk in the half & half, cook until thickened. Add chicken broth, stir until combined. Whisk in the cheese until melted. Peel and cut the cooled potatoes into bite-sized cubes; add to the soup along with 1/2 of the reserved bacon pieces and all remaining ingredients. Continue cooking for 15 minutes until heated through