Optional garnishes: additional cheese, croutons, finely diced ham, hot pepper sauce and/or unsweetened whipped cream mixed with Dijon mustard and chopped fresh herbs
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper; sauté 10 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 2 minutes.
Add broth, corn, bay leaf, salt, pepper and thyme leaves. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 30 minutes.
Discard bay leaf. Transfer mixture 2 cups at a time to a blender container. Remove round plastic disc from lid; close lid and cover opening with a thick kitchen towel or pot holder. Hold towel over lid while blending mixture on high speed until mixture is pureed. Transfer mixture to a saucepan. Repeat with remaining soup mixture.
Add cream to soup; bring to a boil. Stir in cheese; turn off heat and stir until cheese is melted. Taste and adjust seasonings. Ladle soup into shallow bowls; garnish as desired.