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Are Croissants French?

Croissants are instantly recognisable as one of the national foods of France. Ask the average man in the street to name five foods he associates with France and he will almost certainly include croissants in his answer. The question is, are croissants originally French?

Croissant

It may surprise you to find that the answer might actually be no, or more correctly, maybe not.

There are numerous legends surrounding the creation of the croissant. One tells how, in 1683, a baker heard the Ottoman Turks trying to tunnel into Vienna. The baker alerted the military and the invasion was stopped. The croissant was created as a symbol of victory over the crescent flagged country. Another legend tells a similar story, only this time the baker comes from Budapest, Hungary.

A more plausible legend is that Marie Antoinette requested that palace bakers recreate her favourite Austrian treat as a reminder of her homeland. However, there is little documentary evidence to support this and it is more likely that the legend sprang up from the famously attributed words: ‘Let them eat cake.’

What can be said with some certainty is that the croissant has its origins in Austria. The Austrians produced a popular plain bread roll called a Kipferl, which dates back to around the 13th century. Its shape is identical to the familiar croissant shape. However, it was certainly not the buttery pastry we recognise as a croissant today.

The croissant, as we know it, can be traced back to 1839 when Austrian artillery officer, August Zang, opened a Viennese bakery in Paris. The bakery’s products included a number of rich sweet pastries which became known as Viennoiseries (things of Vienna). The bakery also produced Kipferls and it wasn’t long before bakeries across Paris were mimicking Zang’s products and the croissant was born.

So are croissants French? In truth, nobody knows. If the Zang story is correct, then the best conclusion may be that it is a pastry made by an Austrian, originating in France.


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