Set a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the butter, onion, pepper, cloves, bay, and garlic and saute and stir 4 minutes, or until aromatic. Blend in the flour and cook, stirring 3 minutes, or until frothy.
Gradually stir in the milk until smooth and keep stirring until it boils. Lower the heat so the sauce simmers and cook, uncovered, 8 minutes or until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon and has no raw flour taste.
Pour through a fine strainer into a bowl, stirring and pressing on the ingredients to extract every bit of flavor. Stir in the cream and thyme. Use immediately or lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the top and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Prepare Bechamel as above, omitting heavy cream and thyme. After straining, place back in hot pan and stir in crumbled gorgonzola cheese until melted – serve with pasta or gnocchi.
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