All About the Croissant
Who would have thought that the croissant - that light, flaky, golden masterpiece of French baking, with its soft tender crumb, inextricably linked to the French petit déjeuner - was born of a battle under another flag?
In 1683, during the second siege of Vienna by the Ottomans when the enemy decided to attack by night, the city's bakers, up before dawn to prepare their pastries, discovered their plot and gave out the alert. To immortalize the victory, they were given permission to make Hörnchen ("little horns" in German) whose shape recalled the cresecent symbol of the Ottoman flag.
Another less well-known version atributes the birth of the croissant to a certain Kolschitsky, a Viennese café owner of Polish origin, who gathered up the sacks of coffee left by the Turks on their abrupt departure and had the idea of serving the coffee with a crescent-shaped pastry to mark the occupier's departure.
France was "officially" introduced to the croissant in 1770 when Marie-Antoinette of Austria introduced it to the Court of Versailles. But it wasn't until 1838/9 that all of Paris discovered it. The new craze began at 92 rue de Richelieu* when an Austrian officer, August Zang, opened a Viennese pastry shop. He introduced kipferl (crescent-shaped pastries) and kaisersemmel (kaiser or emperor's rolls) to France. By 1850 the croissant was already listed as a French bread by the French Agricultural Academy.
Beginning in 1920, Parisian bakers replaced the brioche-like dough with butter-based puff pastry to create the version we know today. From there, the croissant traveled the world, becoming emblematic of French baking.
*Rue de Richelieu runs in part along the gardens of the Palais Royal in Paris. On this street is found the Comédie Française (no. 2), while Molière died at no. 40.
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