Preparation / Directions:
In a heavy-bottomed, 3-quart saucepan, bring the milk gradually to a boil; do not allow it to scorch. Meanwhile, sift the semolina, cornstarch, 1 cup of the sugar, and salt together and gradually add to the boiling milk, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Cook slowly over medium heat until the mixture thickens and comes to a full boil, then remove from the heat.
Beat the eggs on high speed of an electric mixer. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar and continue beating until very thick and fluffy, about 10 minutes, then add the vanilla. Stirring constantly, add eggs to the hot pudding. Partially cover the pan and allow to cool. Butter a 9 x 12 x 3-inch baking pan and cover the bottom with 7 sheets of the filo, brushing butter generously between each and making sure that a few sheets come up the pan sides. Pour the custard into the pan over the filo. Cover with the 5 remaining sheets, brushing butter between each and on the surface. With the tip of a very sharp knife, score the top filo sheets into square or diamond shapes, being careful not to score as deeply as the custard. Bake on the center rack of a moderate (350F) oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until crisp and golden chestnut in color and the custard is firm.
Meanwhile, boil the remaining 1-1/2 cups sugar with the water and lemon or orange peel for 5 minutes. Add the brandy or Cognac, if desired, and set aside.
Remove the galaktoboureko from the oven and set on a cake rack. Spoon the hot syrup over the entire galaktoboureko, particularly the edges. Cool thoroughly before cutting and serving. Store in the refrigerator.