Slowly stewing chopped strawberries over simmering water concentrates the flavor beautifully; the minty cream topping makes the soup even more elegant, as do the layered vanilla phyllo crisps served alongside. Known as feuille de brique in French, these crisps can also be used as the pastry base for a napoleon, or as an accompaniment to a savory soup if you substitute olive oil for the butter and salt for the vanilla sugar. They're worth the extra effort, but if you're short on time, you can use store-bought tuiles or other delicate buttery cookies instead.
In a large saucepan, bring 1 inch of water to a simmer. Place the chopped strawberries in a medium stainless steel bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup of the sugar and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set the bowl over the simmering water and cook over low heat until the strawberries have exuded their juices, about 1 hour.
Prepare a large ice-water bath. Carefully remove the bowl from the saucepan. Discard the plastic wrap. Stir the star anise, orange zest and 1/4 cup of the chopped mint into the berries. Set the bowl into the ice bath and stir the soup occasionally for about 15 minutes, or until chilled. Strain the soup through a fine sieve set over a bowl and refrigerate.
In a mortar, pound the remaining 1/2 cup of chopped mint with 3 tablespoons of the sugar until a wet paste forms, then scrape into a bowl and stir in the crème fraîche; refrigerate for 20 minutes. Strain the mint cream through a fine sieve set over a stainless steel bowl. Using a handheld mixer, beat the mint cream to firm peaks.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, using your fingers, rub the vanilla bean seeds into 1/4 cup of the sugar. Work with 1 sheet of phyllo at a time and keep the other sheets covered with plastic wrap. Lay the phyllo on a work surface, brush lightly with melted butter and sprinkle with some of the vanilla sugar. Top with another sheet of phyllo. Repeat, layering the phyllo, butter and sugar 6 times, using up all of the vanilla sugar. For the final layer, brush the phyllo with butter and sprinkle lightly with salt.
Using a 3 1/2-inch round biscuit cutter, stamp out 8 rounds from the phyllo and arrange on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Top with a second sheet of parchment paper and another large baking sheet, pressing lightly. Bake for 8 minutes, or until lightly browned and crisp. Carefully remove the top baking sheet and parchment paper and let the crisps cool.
In a large bowl, toss the quartered strawberries with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar; let stand for 5 minutes. Ladle the soup into shallow bowls. Top with the mint cream. Scatter the quartered strawberries over the mint cream. Garnish with the mint sprigs and serve with the crisps.
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