In a medium mixing bowl let egg whites stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degree F.
Line a cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper. Lightly grease foil-lined cookie sheet; set aside.
Beat egg whites with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form (tips curl). Gradually add the 2/3 cup sugar, beating on high speed until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight). Fold in about half of the flour. Gently stir in butter. Fold in remaining flour until thoroughly combined.
For each cookie, drop 1 tablespoon of batter onto the prepared cookie sheet. Using the back of a spoon, spread batter into 2-1/2-inch circles. Sprinkle a few almonds atop each circle.
Bake about 7 minutes or until cookies are crisp and golden brown around edges. Let the cookies stand about 1 minute. Using a wide spatula, remove the cookie from baking sheet and place on a flat surface. (You will need to use a new sheet of parchment paper for each batch). Cool completely. (Note. Although this recipe will make about 30 cookies, you will need only 24 cookies for this recipe. Place in an airtight container and store for up to 2 days.
For fruit, in a large non-reactive saucepan, combine wine, the 2/3 cup sugar, the water, lemon peel, stick cinnamon, star anise, and vanilla bean. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Using a fine mesh sieve, strain syrup. Return syrup to saucepan. Add fruits. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 4 minutes or until pears are just tender. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature. If desired, transfer to a glass jar or bowl. Cover and chill for up to 24 hours. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Prepare Vanilla Cream Filling as directed.
Just before serving, place one cookie in the center of each of eight dessert plates. Spoon a scant 1/4 cup of the Vanilla Cream Filling atop. Repeat layers; top with remaining cookies, using 3 cookies per serving. Spoon some of the fruit and syrup around the cookie towers on each plate. Spoon some of the syrup over the cookie tower. Makes 8 servings.
Vanilla Cream Filling
In a heavy small saucepan stir together sugar; cornstarch; and salt. Gradually stir in half-and-half or light cream. Using a sharp knife, cut a lengthwise slit in 1/2 of a vanilla bean. Add vanilla bean to cream mixture.
Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 minute more. Gradually stir about half of the hot mixture into beaten egg yolks. Return all of the yolk mixture to the saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil; reduce heat. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat. Remove and discard the vanilla bean. Transfer to a bowl. Cover surface with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours or until cold (do not stir). In a small mixing bowl beat whipping cream with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add cooled pastry cream, beating just until smooth; chill well before serving.