The croissant is one of the most famous and loved foods yet it’s also has a very disputed history. There are countless stories and legends about where this pastry originated and how it was made. However, there is still little evidence to support its true origin. Will we ever know the truth behind the croissant? Probably not but the stories are just as fascinating as the pastry itself.
Here are just a few of those stories.
The Battle of Vienna
The Battle of Vienna is perhaps the most famous and widespread story surrounding the croissant.
In 1683, Vienna was under siege by the Turks. After several months of trying to starve the city into submission, the Turks attempted to tunnel underneath the walls of the city. Bakers hard at work in their underground kitchens heard the sounds of the Turks digging and alerted the city’s defenders. This advance warning gave the defenders enough time to do something about the tunnel before it was completed. Soon afterwards, King John III of Poland arrived at the head of an army that defeated the Turks and forced them to retreat.
To celebrate their victory, several bakers in Vienna made a pastry in the shape representing the Turkish crescents they had seen on the enemy’s flags.
They called this new pastry the “Kipfel” which is the German word for “crescent” and continued baking if for many years.
The issue behind this story is there are too many versions of it. Some versions take place in Vienna while others appear in Budapest at different times. As well, the story is often intertwined with Marie Antoinette as being the main influence to bring the croissant to France.
Most food historians confirm that crescent-shaped pastries were baked in Vienna during the 17th century and that they migrated to France soon thereafter. They recount, but do not confirm or deny the story of the brave bakers who supposedly created the first croissants.
The Croissant and Marie Antoinette
According to this legend, it was Marie Antoinette (Austrian Princess who married Louis XVI), that introduced the croissant to France. As a bride of fifteen, she recalled memories of the croissant in Vienna and insisted that her chefs recreate her favorite pastry.
Many critics dispute this story as the croissant is such a unique food and there is no way Marie Antoinette could have described it. Furthermore, Marie Antoinette would not of mentioned the croissant without writers of the period having commented on it. As well, there is no record of the pastry in a long and extensive list of foods from that time.
August Zang in France
This version is considered to be the most accurate by some historians. Although, the story still does not explain who created the croissant but rather how it became popular in France.
August Zang was an Austrian artillery officer that founded a Viennese Bakery in Paris in approximately 1839. This bakery, which served Viennese specialties including the kipfel and the Vienna loaf, quickly became popular and inspired French bakers. Throughout time, the kipfel was developed into what it is known now as the croissant.
Today, the croissant is both a symbol of French culture and tradition.
The Food Timeline: Croissant
August Zang and the French Croissant: How Viennoiserie Came to France by Jim Chevallier
Pastry 101: Croissants from Baking 911.com