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To celebrate National Croissant Day, we’re taking a deep dive into the history of the croissant, complete with input from ICE’s Director of Pastry Research & Development, Chef Jürgen David.
Most sources of information on the history of croissants agree that it originated in Austria, as the kipferl. The kipferl bread roll is made from a wheat dough that has been yeasted. It is popular in Central Europe. Many believe the kipferl may have been around even before the 13th Century. Popular myths attribute its invention as a celebration of the Ottoman Empire’s defeat in the Battle of Vienna; the crescent shape represented the moon on the Ottoman flag.
“These stories are almost certainly untrue,” Austrian native Chef Jürgen says.
Regardless of the kipferl’s origins, it would migrate to France later in the 19th century.
Another common legend says that Marie Antoinette introduced the kipferl at French court because she was homesick for Austrian foods. While it’s a romantic story, there are no historical records to back up this retelling.
The first recorded introduction of kipferl in France was in 1839 when Austrian artillery officers August Zang and Josephine de la Roche founded a Viennese-style bakery in Paris. Parisians imitated Viennese bread and the kipferl, falling in love with it. The name “croissant”, which refers to the crescent-shaped bread, began to appear on historical records.
Sylvain Claudious Goy published the first known French version of the recipe for croissants in 1915. Goy’s recipe uses a laminated yeasted dough, instead of the brioche that August Zang used. Lamination is the process of folding butter into dough to create thin layers of flaky pastry.
The iconic French pastry that we love today was created.
Read More: The History of Crêpes
The majority of us are familiar with frozen croissants. They can be found in grocery stores, restaurants, and bakeries. They are a relatively recent invention that was born out of innovation.
In 1981, as technology improved, the Sara Lee Corporation in America developed a method for freezing croissant dough to be shipped. The frozen dough needed only to be quickly baked prior to serving. This made it possible for businesses to use unskilled labour and for people at home to make croissants with ease.
Food experts and historians agree, the croissant is a uniquely French pasty. The French government designated it as the French national product in 1920.
Many other countries have also developed their own variations of the croissant. From Spain’s cream-filled Xuixo to the American fast-food croissan’wich, it’s truly a staple of modern global cuisine.
Chef Jürgen, who learned pastry arts in Vienna, Austria, is a croissant connoisseur.
“When I worked in Switzerland, my job was to roll the croissants in the morning and it was the best thing,” he says. “I’m a big fan of anything laminated. There aren’t any special tricks, and it’s fun to roll out all the layers.”
His favorite is the good old-fashioned curved, plain and simple croissant. As he puts it: “I just love making — and eating — croissants.”
Read More:The History of Mexican Wedding Cookies