Croissants – a great French icon?

Written by on May 6, 2014 in French Cuisine

croissant head

The flaky, buttery delicious crescent-shaped pastry called a croissant is a French icon and yet…  it isn’t really French.

History of the croissant

History has it that croissants originated in Austria. There are several versions of the story and none of them can be fully substantiated but the premise is that whilst at war with Turkey in the late 1600s, a baker working late at night heard the Turkish soldiers tunnelling under the walls of the city of Vienna and alerted the Austrian guard. They collapsed the tunnel which saved the city and the baker in a moment of genius created a pastry in the shape of a crescent moon, the emblem of the Turkish empire. It is said that he intended that when his customers bit into the pastry, they would be symbolically devouring their enemies. He called his creation a kipfel, the German word for croissant.

A later legend tells that Marie-Antoinette bought the kipfel to France from her homeland of Austria when she commanded the royal bakers to make the pastry for her.

Yet another tale claims that an Austrian artillery officer named August Zang, who founded the  “Boulangerie Viennoise” at 92, rue de Richelieu in the 1830s brought the recipe for kipfels with him and it became popular with his customers; so much so that in 1872, Charles Dickens who travelled across France mentioned it as a staple of French food.

In the early twentieth century, French bakers improved on the recipe by making it from layers of buttered puff pastry and the croissant as we know and love it today was born.

It is traditional to eat it plain for breakfast in France, preferably dunked in coffee.

Champagne – an English invention

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