The croissant

The croissant is a flaky breakfast food that is so culturally iconic and French that many defer to its native pronunciation (krwa-sohn).

Yet, in the 19th century, the French viewed the croissant as a foreign novelty that was only sold in special Viennese bakeries in Paris's wealthier parts.

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Is the Croissant Really French?

smithsonianmag.com

The croissant was inspired by the Austrian kipfel - a crescent-shaped baked good featuring a generous amount of butter or lard.

  • The kipfel originated in 1683. The story is that during the Ottomans siege of Vienna, a baker, who rises early to make bread, saved the city when he heard the Turks tunnelling underneath the city and sounded an alarm.
  • The curved shape of the kipfel mimics the crescent moon of the Ottoman Flag.

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The croissant started as the Austrian kipfel but became French when people began to make it with puffed pastry. There is no reference to the croissant in France before about the 1850s.

An Austrian entrepreneur named August Zang opened the first Viennese bakery in Paris in 1838. Zang's ability for marketing had Parisians flocking to his establishment to sample his Vienna bread, kaiser rolls, and kipfel. By 1840, there were at least a dozen makers of Viennese bread.

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The croissant took the fast-food industry by storm in the late 1900s, as manufacturers introduced pre-made frozen dough and takeaway "croissanteries" that popped up throughout France.

The frozen croissant was introduced to America in 1981, which soon outpaced the pound cakes in sales. The croissant morphed into Cronuts (doughnuts made with croissant dough). The most recent incarnation is the Baissant, or bagel croissant.

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Michel Lyczak was the 2014 winner of the "best butter croissant" award.

  • He states that an excellent croissant depends on the quality of the ingredients: sugar, salt, high-protein flour, eggs, fresh, cold milk, and butter.
  • The butter is a variety from the southwestern region of Poitou-Charentes, carefully washed in spring water before folding it by hand into the pastry dough.
  • After flattening and folding the dough, it is cut into triangles by hand, then refrigerated for 12 hours to ferment. Without this step, you won't get the layers and will end up with bread.

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