Was the Croissant Really Developed by the French or is it from Somewhere Else?
mobi-logo

Posted on 05 Sep 2012 01:03

The French have a whole lot to do with the croissant as it is known today. Starting around 1920, they began making the croissant as a laminated-dough, which is how it gets all the flaky layers. Other familiar laminate doughs are puff-pastry dough and Danish dough. The original croissant and its shape were developed somewhere else, however.

Croissant Origin

The origin story of the croissant, if it is true, is an interesting one. In case you didn't already know, croissant means crescent, as in a crescent moon. It just so happens that the Turkish flag bears a crescent shape, and that emblem has decorated the flag for hundreds of years. It also happens that the shape of the croissant was inspired by the Turkish flag. It was not in tribute, however.

In 1863, the Ottoman Turks were laying siege to Vienna, Austria. This had been dragging on for quite a while. To speed up the process, the Turks hatched a bold and clever plan to tunnel under the city fortifications so as to sneak up on the defenders from the rear. Of course, they did this at night, when else? What the Turks didn't know is that Viennese bakers tended to work in basement kitchens; and they would do so all through the night, as is a baker's lot.


fresh croissant roll
fresh croissant roll


The Turks, unfortunately, were tunneling within earshot of one of these basement bakeries and the bakers inside could hear the picking and digging noises emanating from the soldiers tunneling efforts. The bakers ran to the city defenders and sounded the alarm. Instead of the Turks sneaking up on the Viennese, it was the other way around. The Turks were defeated.


piece of apple crumb danish pastry

Danish pastry is another type of laminate dough.
Image by Renee Comet

piece of apple crumb danish pastry

Danish pastry is another type of laminate dough.
Image by Renee Comet



The emperor of Austria-Hungary was mighty happy and mighty pleased. He bestowed praise and honors upon the heroic bakers who had saved the city. Either the emperor commissioned them to do so, or the bakers took it upon themselves to honor the occasion, but they created a small yeast-leavened sweet roll. They made it in the shape of a crescent to mock the Turkish flag.They were consuming their enemy, get it? And the croissant was born. This roll today is called the Viennese croissant, and it is different from the French croissant we know today.

fresh croissant, coffee, and newspaper
fresh croissant, coffee, and newspaper



Later on - a hundred years later, to be precise - these croissants were baked up by Viennese bakers for the Court of Versailles, in celebration of the marriage of Marie-Antoinette, who was an Austrian princess and daughter of Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor, to King Louis XVI of France. They enjoyed the pastry in the Court of Versailles and it was slowly adopted by Paris and then France.


chocolate croissant and cappuchino
chocolate croissant and cappuchino



The Viennese croissant did not really hit it big, however, until the World's Fair of 1889, where Viennese bakers baked them up again, along with brioches and other yeast leavened breads that became known as Vienna goods. Paris bakers who began baking the croissants became themselves known as Vienna bakers. They made it the same way until around 1920, when it began to change. At that time French bakers began making the croissants from a laminated dough, using yeast, which resulted in croissant rolls that were light and flaky. This was the birth of the Parisian croissant, as we know it today. This laminated croissant dough was also combined with chocolate to make a flaky version of pain au chocolat. Croissants also began to be filled with sweet filling from fruit, almond cream, or other nuts. Ham and Gruyere cheese is another traditional pairing. In Paris, however, croissant are usually enjoyed plain, for breakfast, along with coffee. Filled croissant are more a way to use leftovers so as to reduce waste.

References
1. Calvel, Raymond. The Taste of Bread: A Translation of Le Goût Du Pain, Comment Le Préserver, Comment Le Retrouver. Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen, 2001. 141.
2. DiMuzio, Daniel T. Bread Baking: An Artisan's Perspective. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2010. 141.
© 2016 by Eric Troy and CulinaryLore. All Rights Reserved. Please contact for permissions.