Monday, 15 August 2011

Activity: Baking/The History of...Croissant.

Sourced from the Wikipedia page 'Croissant'...because I live dangerously...

A croissant, is a buttery flaky bread named for its distinctive crescent shape. It is also sometimes called a crescent or crescent roll. Croissants are made of a leavened variant of puff pastry. The yeast dough is layered with butter, rolled and folded several times in succession, then rolled into a sheet, a technique called laminating.
Crescent-shaped food breads have been made since the Middle Ages, and crescent-shaped cakes (imitating the often-worshiped Moon) possibly since classical times, but the modern croissant dates to 19th-century Paris.
Croissants have long been a staple of French bakeries and patisseries. In the late 1970s, the development of factory-made, frozen, pre-formed but unbaked dough made them into a fast food which can be freshly baked by unskilled labor. Indeed, the croissanterie was explicitly a French response to American-style fast food, and today 30-40% of the croissants sold in French bakeries and patisseries are frozen.
This innovation, along with the croissant's versatility and distinctive shape, has made it the best-known type of French pastry in much of the world.


The Kipferl - ancestor of the croissant - has been documented in Austria going back at least as far as the 13th century, in various shapes. The Kipferl can be made plain or with nut or other fillings (some consider the rugelach a form of Kipferl).

The "birth" of the croissant itself - that is, its adaptation from the plainer form of Kipferl, before its subsequent evolution (to a puff pastry) - can be dated with some precision to at latest 1839 (some say 1838), when an Austrian artillery officer, August Zang, founded a Viennese Bakery ("Boulangerie Viennoise") at 92, rue de Richelieu in Paris. This bakery, which served Viennese specialities including the Kipferl and the Vienna loaf, quickly became popular and inspired French imitators (and the concept, if not the term, viennoiserie, a 20th century term for supposedly Vienna-style pastries). The French version of the Kipferl was named for its crescent (croissant) shape.

Alan Davidson, editor of the Oxford Companion to Food, found no printed recipe for the present-day croissant in any French recipe book before the early 20th century; the earliest French reference to a croissant he found was among the "fantasy or luxury breads" in Payen's Des substances alimentaires, 1853. However, early recipes for the croissant (without butter, and so not puff pastry-based) can be found in the nineteenth century and at least one reference to croissants as an established French bread appeared as early as 1850.
August Zang himself returned to Austria in 1848 to become a press magnate, but the bakery remained popular for some time after, and was mentioned in several works of the time: "This same M. Zank [sic]...founded around 1830 [sic], in Paris, the famous Boulangerie viennoise". Several sources praise this bakery's products: "Paris is of exquisite delicacy; and, in particular, the succulent products of the Boulangerie Viennoise"; "which seemed to us as fine as if it came from the Viennese bakery on the rue de Richelieu".
By 1869, the croissant was well-established enough to be mentioned as a breakfast staple, and in 1872, Charles Dickens wrote (in his periodical "All the Year Round") of:
the workman's pain de ménage and the soldier's pain de munition, to the dainty croissant on the boudoir table
The puff pastry used to make the modern croissant was already mentioned in the late 17th century, when La Varenne's "Le cuisinier français" gave a recipe for it in the 1680 - and possibly earlier - editions. It was typically used, not on its own, but for shells holding other ingredients (as in a vol-au-vent). But it does not appear to be mentioned in relation to the croissant until the twentieth century.

Origin stories

Fanciful stories of how the Kipferl—and so, ultimately, the croissant—was created are widespread and persistent culinary legends, at least one going back to the 19th century. However, there are no contemporary sources for any of these stories, nor does an aristocratic writer, writing in 1799, mention the pastry in a long and extensive list of breakfast foods.
The legends include tales that it was invented in Europe to celebrate the defeat of the Umayyad forces at the Battle of Tours by the Franks in 732, with the shape representing the Islamic crescent; that it was invented in Vienna in 1683 to celebrate the defeat of the Ottomans by Hungarian forces in the siege of the city, as a reference to the crescents on the Ottoman flags, when bakers staying up all night heard the tunneling operation and gave the alarm; tales linking croissants with the kifli and the siege of Buda in 1686; and those describing Marie Antoinette's hankering after a Polish specialty.


Croissant pastry can also be wrapped around any praline, almond paste or chocolate before it is baked (in the last case, it becomes like pain au chocolat, which has a different, non-crescent, shape), or sliced to admit sweet or savoury fillings. In France and Spain, croissants are generally sold without filling and eaten without added butter, but sometimes with almond filling. In the United States, sweet fillings or toppings are common, and warm croissants may be filled with ham and cheese or feta cheese and spinach. In the Levant, croissants are sold plain or filled with chocolate, cheese, almonds, or zaatar. In Germany, croissants are sometimes filled with Nutella or persipan; in Southern Germany there also is a popular variety of a croissant glazed with lye ("Laugencroissant"). In the german speaking part of Switzerland the croissant is typically called a Gipfeli which typically has a crisper crust and is less buttery than the French style croissant. In some Latin American countries, croissants are commonly served alongside coffee as a breakfast or merienda. These croissant are referred to as medialunas ("half moons") and are typically coated with a sweet glaze ("de manteca", made with butter). Another variant is a medialuna "de grasa" ("of lard"), which is not sweet. In Japan, croissants covered with a sweet glaze or filled with chocolate are common in bakeries and convenience stores


A cousin of the croissant is the Italian pastry named "cornetto" in the Center and South and "brioche" in the North. Though most often the two pastries are considered to be the same, that's not completely true: croissants, in their French version tend to be crispy and contain a lot of butter, whereas an Italian cornetto or brioche is usually softer. Furthermore, the "cornetto vuoto" (italian: "empty cornetto") is commonly sided by variants with filling,which include "crema pasticcera", jam and chocolate cream. They come often covered with powder sugar.


St. Martin's Day is celebrated in the Greater Poland region of Poland, mainly in its capital city Poznań. On this day, the people of Poznań buy and eat considerable amounts of croissants, made specially for this occasion from half-French paste with white-poppy and dainties, so-called Martin Croissants or St. Martin Croissants.

Spread of the Croissant

Historically, the croissant was not commonplace in the UK. Although available in specialty places, it was only in the late 1980s that supermarkets started stocking them and then in the late 1990s with the growth of cafe culture did the croissant spread. They were introduced to Ethiopia by 1902, during the reign of Menelik II.
Croissants are also seen in former French colonies such as Morocco and Vietnam where in the latter they are called bánh sừng bò.

*Sweet memories of France...croissant and chocolat chaud is THE KING of breakfasts. If you disagree, I will fitght you.

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