The history of the croissant

Chocolate croissant

Buttery, flaky, airy croissants are a breakfast staple the world over. The pastry as we know it is a French invention, but its roots can be traced back to 15th century Austria, according to this Lucky Peach article.

The croissant origin story begins in Austria more than 500 years ago with the kipfel, a crescent-shaped morning pastry. It was more brioche-like than the modern croissant, and like many foods, the "history of the kipfel is hazy: the word was used in Austrian cuisine as far back as the thirteenth century, referring to crescent-shaped sweets, but it does not refer specifically to the Viennese breakfast pastry until the fifteenth century, according to Jim Chevallier's August Zang and the French Croissant."

While there are alternate (and contradictory) origin stories for the flaky croissant, it seems likely that marriage, fittingly enough, played a role in marrying the crescent shape of the kipfel with pâte feuilletée (puff pastry), which first appeared in François Pierre de la Varenne's Le Pâtissier François in 1683.  The marriage between Austrian princess Marie Antoinette and French king Louis XIV is often attributed to the creation of the croissant in France. Antoinette allegedly ate kipfel to remind her of her beloved homeland, calling it croissant in French and elevating its popularity.

A Viennese transplant to Paris is credited with introducing a flakier version of the kipfel/croissant, but "references to croissants made with true, yeasted puff pastry dough did not come until the 1900s," making the croissant as we know it a fairly modern invention. Learn more, including how the availability of butter and sugar through the centurie saffected the development and distribution of the croissant (and other pastries) to the masses, at the Lucky Peach website.

Photo of Chocolate croissant (Pain au chocolat) from Saveur Magazine                   

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