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Croissants Weren’t Actually Created in France

This article is part of our Cocktail Chatter series, where we dive into the wild, weird, and wondrous corners of history to share over a cocktail and impress your friends.

There is perhaps no baked good more synonymous with France than the croissant. Flaky, buttery, and delicious, the delicate pastry is available at nearly every boulangerie in the country, oft-paired with a cafe au lait or a mid-afternoon glass of wine. However, no matter how French modern-day culture has deemed the croissant to be, they weren’t even invented within the republic’s borders. They were actually created in another part of Europe, centuries before they were ever introduced to the Parisian elite.

Culinary experts agree that the croissant originated as the Austrian kipferl — a buttery, crescent-shaped cookie occasionally filled with nuts and sugar — though nailing down exactly how the kipferl came to be is much more difficult. While some argue that the kipferl has existed as early as the 13th century, the most popular legend of the pastry’s origin suggests that it was created in Vienna in 1683 following the city’s victory over the Ottoman Empire during an attempted siege.

The Ottomans had their sights set on capturing Vienna for years leading up to the siege attempt, and their defeat marked an important turning point for the Empire’s 350-year stronghold. The story goes that a Viennese baker, up before dawn to prepare the day’s goods, heard the Ottomans tunneling beneath the city and sounded an alarm, giving troops enough time to prepare a defense. In doing so, the baker effectively saved the city. In celebration, he created a crescent-shaped pastry to represent the waxing moon on the Ottoman flag.

As for how the kipferl migrated to France, a popular theory points to Queen Marie Antoiniette, a Vienna native who was rumored to have requested the pastry be imported into the country so she could have a taste of home. That said, historical records don’t support this theory, as Antoinette was killed in 1793, and there are no existing references to croissants from France before the mid-1800s. Instead, evidence indicates that kipferl was actually introduced to Parisians by August Zang, who opened Boulangerie Viennoise along the right bank of the Seine in 1839. The bakery, which sold Austrian classics like Vienna bread and the kipferl, was a near-instant hit with Parisians flocking in thanks to the shop’s attractive window displays. Piggybacking off the boulangerie’s success, bakers across the city started offering kipferl of their own. The French version, which was flakier than its Viennese counterpart, was similarly crescent-shaped and referred to as a croissant.

According to the Institute of Culinary Education, the recipe for what we know as croissants today was first recorded in 1915 by Frenchmen Sylvian Claudius Goy, who folded butter into the dough to create thin layers. As independent scholar Jim Chevallier Smithsonian Magazine, “The croissant began as the Austrian kipfe[r]l, but became French the moment people began to make it with puffed pastry, which is a French innovation.”

No matter how the pastry came to be, we could not be more thankful for the flaky goodness that is the croissant.

*Image retrieved from monticellllo via

The article Croissants Weren’t Actually Created in France appeared first on VinePair.

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