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WTF (What the Food) Wednesday: Croissant


What do Arnold Schwarzenegger and the croissant have in common? They're both Austrian! Let's look at the storied history of one of the most iconic breakfast pastries in the world.

 

The Croissant

Would you believe that the story of this soft and flaky pastry begins in a hard time of war? Well, it really wasn't; however, there is a local Austrian legend that would have it so. The legend goes that there was once a baker that had risen before the rest of Vienna's populace to prepare the day's bread. The Ottomans had laid siege to Vienna some weeks back, and today the baker heard strange sounds coming from the ground.


The Ottomans were tunneling under the city! Being an upstanding citizen, the baker alerted the authorities, the Ottomans were routed, and the baker created the kipfel in celebration. The kipfel's crescent shape is to commemorate the victory by mimicking the crescent moon on the Ottoman flag.


Turns out, the kipfel has been around long before the Ottoman siege. As a matter of fact, the first mention of the kipfel was from a poem mentioning Christmas treats that Viennese bakers presented to Duke Leopold in 1227. Being a pretty big focal point at night, the moon had inspired baked good shapes centuries earlier than this.


Yet another legend states that it was none other than Marie Antoinette that brought the kipfel, and thus the croissant, to Paris. Unfortunately, she was more Kardashian in her fame rather than helpful to the populace that was hungry for pastries... literally.


The real integration into Parisian society is credited to one August Zang. This visionary opened the first Viennese bakery in Paris in 1838. He utilized the fledgling marketing industry for advertising in newspapers and decorated his store windows so lavishly that customers flocked to his bakery. He had also patented a steam oven that used moist hay (mmmm... tasty) to give all his pastries a lustrous sheen.

However, croissants didn't become definitely French until they started being created as puffed pastries. The first mention of the pastry we know as a croissant wasn't made until 1850, long after Zang had sold his bakery. It’s worthy to note he moved back home, opened a newspaper, and became a very wealthy oil and mining magnate. Within a few decades, the croissant was an entrenched part of French breakfast.

 

Fun Fact

Did you know that, traditionally, the shape of your croissant matters!

If you don't believe the shape, you'll believe the taste!

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