2 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1 and 1/2 cup sugar, divided
4 eggs, divided1/4 cup milk
3/4 Tablespoon vanilla extract, divided
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 packages (8 oz) cream cheese (room temperature)
1/2 cup (4 oz) sour cream
Making the crust
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a springform pan with pure vegetable shortening and sprinkle with flour. Turn over and tap to remove excess flour.
Cut the chocolate squares in half and combine in a large microwaveable bowl with the butter. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and stir until the chocolate is melted and fully combined with the butter. You should have a smooth mixture.
Add 1/2 cup sugar. Mix well. With a mixer on low speed, add in 1 egg. Add milk and 1/4 Tablespoon (same as 1 and 1/2 teaspoons) vanilla extract. Combine the flour and salt and slowly add into chocolate mixture.
Spread evenly into prepared springform pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
Making the cheesecake
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Bring all ingredients down to room temperature.
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth and lump free. (Make sure you’re using the blocks of cream cheese and not the kind in the tub!) Add the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 Tablespoon of vanilla extract, and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. Add sour cream and mix well. Add remaining 3 eggs, one at a time, incorporating each egg at low speed.
Triple wrap the bottom and sides of the cheesecake pan with aluminum foil to waterproof it. Pour the cheesecake mixture into the pan. Place the cheesecake into a large roasting pan and pour the boiling water into the roasting pan until it reaches about halfway up the pan.
Place in the oven and bake at 325 degrees F for 55 minutes to 1 hour, until the center is almost set. Turn off the heat and allow the cheesecake to sit in the oven, with the door closed, for another hour.
Now, if you’re wondering, why can’t I set it directly on the oven rack to bake? Well, because cheesecake is more delicate than a regular cake or pie. Baking in a water bath prevents the sides of the cheesecake from baking faster than the center. Allowing the cheesecake to sit in the oven with the heat off prevents browning and overbaking.
After one hour of sitting in the oven, remove and cool completely on a wire rack. Afterward, chill for at least 4 hours or overnight. Before removing the rim, remember to run a thin knife between the edge of the cheesecake and the pan. When ready to serve, allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.