Gift Wrapped Pear Strudels
7 to 8 ripe but firm pears, preferably Bosc
1/4 cup brandy, cognac or 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1/4 cup dried cranberries, currants or raisins
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
16 phyllo pastry sheets
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup creamy mild chèvre cheese
2 tablespoons icing sugar, optional
Place oven rack on lowest level in oven. Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly butter a large baking sheet with shallow sides. Peel pears, then core and coarsely chop. You should have about 8 cups. Place in a large mixing bowl.
Finely grate 1 teaspoon peel from lemon and squeeze out 2 tablespoons juice. Add to pears and stir in brandy and cranberries. Set aside. Stir sugar with cornstarch, ginger and salt.
Remove 2 sheets of phyllo from package and cover remainder with plastic wrap and a dampened tea towel to prevent drying out. Lay one sheet flat and lightly brush with melted butter. Top with second sheet, matching edges. Lightly brush with melted butter. Fold to form a rectangle about 8 x 13 inches. Lightly brush both sides with butter. Stir sugar mixture with pears and place about 3/4 cup of pear mixture in the center of rectangle.
Crumble 1 tablespoon chèvre over top. Gather the edges, bringing up over the pears and twisting slightly to form a rough edged peak. Place on buttered baking sheet. Repeat, placing bundles at least 1 inch apart.
Bake on bottom rack of preheated 375F oven until pears are tender, about 30 minutes. Pastry peaks will brown before rest of pastry.
As phyllo becomes soggy quickly, serve bundles immediately, sifting icing sugar over top, if you wish.