Have ready a lightly oiled baking sheet. In a small, very clean, heavy saucepan, combine the water and the sugar and stir together over low heat until the granules of sugar have dissolved and the liquid appears clear. Increase the heat to high and simmer the mixture until syrupy and golden brown. Be careful not to overcook and burn the caramel. If crystals form on the sides of the pan, remove them by swirling the liquid in the pan, never stir the caramel with a utensil. Add the toasted almonds, swirl to mix and remove from the heat. Immediately pour the almond croquant onto the oiled baking sheet and allow to cool until quite brittle. Remove to a cutting board and, with a sharp heavy knife, chop coarsely.
Line the base of an 8 by 12-inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside. In a medium stainless steel bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water, combine the confectioners' sugar and the egg yolks, and whisk constantly for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the mixture will hold a ribbon when the beater is lifted away. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes. In another bowl, whip the cream with the vanilla to soft peaks. With a large rubber spatula, gently fold the yolk mixture into the whipped cream, then fold in the crushed almond croquant. Pour the parfait into the prepared baking pan and freeze until solid.
In a medium heavy saucepan, combine the whipping cream with the vanilla bean and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and allow to steep for 10 minutes. In a large stainless steel bowl, beat the egg yolks and the sugar together until pale and thickened. Very slowly whisk the hot cream into the yolk mixture. Set the bowl of custard mixture over a medium saucepan of barely simmering water and stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into another bowl and refrigerate until chilled.
Preheat a broiler to high heat. With a sharp knife, cut the frozen parfait into 4 by 4-inch squares. Place a parfait square in the center of each of 6 ovenproof dessert plates. Cover the parfait with sliced strawberries, top with an even layer of the other berries, and spoon some of the creme Anglaise over the top. Two at a time, place the dessert plates under the hot broiler until the creme is golden brown and bubbling. Turn the plates once or twice as necessary so that they brown evenly. Garnish the plates with mint sprigs and serve immediately.
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Tools You May Need
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