8 springs fresh thyme, tied together
1 can (14 1/2-oz) low-sodium beef broth
1 cup apple juice
4 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
2 onions, sliced thin
1 1/2 lb lean beef stew meat
salt to taste
pepper to taste
3 tbsp flour
4 thick slices French bread
1 cup grated Gruyere* cheese
1 tsp crushed thyme
Place the broth, apple juice, carrots, and onions in slow cooker or crockpot and stir to combine well.
Season the beef with salt and pepper; roll in the flour to coat and place in cooker. Cover and cook 7 to 8 hours on low or 4 to 5 hours on high. Vegetables and beef should be tender.
Ten minutes before soup is done, place bread on a foil lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the cheese and crushed thyme over the bread and broil 1 to 2 minutes until cheese starts to brown.
To serve, spoon stew into 4 serving bowls and top each with a slice of the toast.