Croissants – More than Just Delicious Pastries

All you wanna know about Croissants.

Croissants – More than Just Delicious Pastries

Imagine sinking your teeth into a croissant – a pastry inspired by the elegant curves of Austrian kipferl, but with a French twist of yeast-leavened laminated dough. Croissants got their name from their crescent shape, which holds a rich history. The dough is lovingly layered with butter, rolled, folded, and repeated, creating a thin sheet through a process known as laminating. This special technique results in that flaky, layered texture that’s oh-so-delightful, much like puff pastry.

You might be surprised to know that crescent-shaped bread and cakes have been enjoyed since the days of the Renaissance, and possibly even in ancient times. These kipferls have been cherished in Austrian cuisine for ages and have found their way to French bakeries and pâtisseries. But it wasn’t until the early 20th century that French bakers took this treat to a whole new level. They swapped out the brioche dough of the kipferl for a yeast-leavened laminated dough, creating the modern croissant we adore today.

In the late 1970s, a game-changer arrived: frozen, preformed dough that could be baked fresh with minimal effort. This turned croissants into a fast food option that could be enjoyed by all. The growth of croissant bakeries, including the renowned La Croissanterie chain, was France’s way of embracing the concept of fast food, inspired by the American style. In fact, by 2008, around 30–40% of the croissants in French bakeries and patisseries were baked from frozen dough.

Across Europe, croissants are a familiar sight during continental breakfasts, and they’ve become a dessert favorite worldwide. These delectable pastries are a testament to the fusion of culinary traditions and the joy of savoring every flaky, buttery bite.

A Journey Through Time: The Story Behind Croissants

Let’s embark on a historical adventure that traces the roots of croissants back to their origins, sharing the tale of their transformation over the centuries.

The earliest version of the croissant has its beginnings intertwined with the kipferl, a delicacy hailing from Austria and dating back to at least the 13th century. These kipferls took on various shapes and could be enjoyed plain or filled with nuts and other delightful surprises. Some even see similarities between kipferls and rugelach, another mouthwatering treat.

The croissant as we know it today can be traced back to a pivotal moment in 1839 (or possibly 1838) when August Zang, an Austrian artillery officer, opened the doors to “Boulangerie Viennoise,” a Viennese bakery, on Paris’ 92, rue de Richelieu. This charming bakery introduced Parisians to Viennese specialties like kipferls and Vienna loaves, capturing the city’s fascination. This spark ignited French interest, leading to the concept of viennoiserie, a term referring to pastries reminiscent of Vienna’s offerings. The French twist on the kipferl was named “croissant” for its iconic crescent shape, a symbol that resonates worldwide.

Interestingly, no documented recipe for the modern croissant appears in French cookbooks before the early 20th century, according to Alan Davidson, the editor of the Oxford Companion to Food. However, glimpses of non-laminated croissant recipes can be found in the 19th century. By 1869, croissants were already considered a staple for breakfast, and by 1872, even Charles Dickens took note of these delicacies in his writings.

The puff pastry technique that characterizes croissants today had its roots in the late 17th century. In La Varenne’s Le Cuisinier françois, published in the 1680s (and possibly even earlier), a recipe for puff pastry was included, although not exclusively for croissants. It primarily served as a shell for various fillings, not being directly tied to croissants until the 20th century.

So, from Austrian kipferls to Viennese bakeries in Paris and beyond, the croissant’s journey has been a delectable tale of evolution, flavor, and international delight.

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