You can’t get much more French than a croissant, yet some people mistakenly believe that the croissant is actually Austrian. Well, I have to give you a little history lesson to explain that this really isn’t the case.
Back in Austria in the 1400s there was a crescent-shaped morning pastry called a Kipfel. It was made with risen dough – not the ‘pâte levée feuilletée’, or ‘risen puff pastry dough’, that French croissants are made from. You might like to know that the recipe for puff pastry wasn’t documented in a French cookery book, until 1653 – so the dates really don’t add up for an Austrian croissant!
But then the croissant got tangled up in Austrian history again in the 18th century. Legend has it that when Austria’s Marie Antoinette was living in Versailles with her husband King Louis XVI she was so homesick for her country that she comfort ate Kipfels, which she christened ‘croissants’. A sweet story but, alas, not true!
Fast-forward a century to the late 1830s and an Austrian journalist called August Zang opened an upscale pastry shop, Boulangerie Viennoise, in Paris. Monsieur Zang introduced Parisians to his native Kipfels, which were made with a flakier dough than the original pastries. Because they were a curved shape, people started to call them croissants – the French word for ‘crescent’. And so the Austrian connection starts to make sense!
And finally, enter a French baker called Sylvain Goy. In 1915 he wrote a recipe using pâte feuilletée that was rolled and laminated with butter – just like you would to make puff pastry – except he added yeast to his dough. Et voilà – the French croissant!
So I hope that clears up the question of where croissants come from. Of course the next issue is whether your croissants should be made with butter (croissant au beurre) or margarine (croissant ordinaire). Did you know that in France they have a way of distinguishing between the two? If a croissant is made with margarine it’s shaped like a crescent, while a butter croissant is straight.
I had to laugh when I heard that one of the supermarkets here had stopped selling crescent-shaped croissants because customers found it easier spreading straight croissants with butter and jam. Butter and jam??! In Paris, the French will only dip their croissants in coffee or warm chocolate. But still, if our customers want to eat their croissants with a little something inside, who are we to stop them?
Diana and I are not sure about the new trend for flavoured croissants though. We’ve heard about a bakery in Sydney that does a whole range of weird and wonderful flavour combinations – foie gras and black cherry croissants, lemon meringue croissants, black truffle croissants... Plus there’s a New York restaurant that sells a cookies and cream croissant and a green tea croissant. It takes a lot of time – over two days! – and hard work to make our croissants so lovely and crunchy on the outside and soft and buttery on the inside. Do we really want to mess with something that’s already perfect? It’s just a simple French croissant – but we love it!
* We bake croissants three times a day so you get them fresh and warm... come on in and have one.