The origins of the croissant
It is a common misconception that croissants originated in France. In fact, they actually find their origins in Austria. According to Wikipedia, croissants originated in Vienna as the kipfel and were created in celebration of the Austrians defeat of the Ottoman empire at the Battle of Vienna in 1683.
The curvacious shape of the kipfel was inspired by the same crescent moon shape which appears on the flag of the Ottoman Empire.
The Kipfel was traditionally made with a yeast-leavened dough. The dough is layered with butter and folded over onto itself many times to create the flaky, chewy pastry we know and love. The process of layering the pastry with butter and folding and rolling it over and over again is referred to as laminating.
How the croissant became French
Legend has it that the Vienna-born French Queen Marie Antoinette was responsible for introducing the Kipfel to France when she became homesick for the taste of her homeland! Perhaps a little more believable is the suggestion that Austrian August Zang, owner of Paris’ first Viennese bakery, introduced the kipfel to France in 1838. Following this the croissant continued to grow in popularity and eventually became the breakfast staple we know and love today.
Although the croissant did find its origins in Vienna, it is undeniable that the croissant we know today would not have been the same without the French’s key change to the recipe, which was the use of puff pastry, which was purely a French cooking method.
In the early twentieth century, innovations in food technology led to the introduction of frozen puff pastry, giving birth to a string of mass produced croissants which popped up all over the world in takeaway shops, supermarkets and fast food chains, and led to the demise of traditional French croissanteries.
These days the croissant has been taken one step further with the introduction of pastries such as Cronuts (donuts made with croissant-like pastry), bagel-croissant hybrids and of course the good old bread and butter pudding made with day-old croissants – check out our recipe here.
Curved or straight?
Did you know that the shape of the croissant is not just about aesthetics, but in fact is an indicator of what ingredients the croissant has been made with? Traditionally a straight croissant is made with butter and a curved croissant is made using margarine or lard.
Are you eating your croissant the wrong way?
Traditionally-speaking, the French do not spread their croissants with anything, let alone jam and butter. True puritans will dip their croissant in a bowl of coffee or for a more decadent treat, molten chocolate does the trick.
Rob’s tips for a great croissant
We asked our Pastry Chef Rob for his top tips on how to make the best croissant. His suggestions were:
- Allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes to an hour between each stage of rolling (lamination). Resting the dough allows the gluten in the flour to relax and creates a more flaky, light pastry rather than it being tough and heavy.
- Only ever use butter, not margarine or lard, and please use good quality butter!
Croissant Day at The Westport Club
Croissant Day is held on Tuesday 30 January. To celebrate, our pastry chefs have been working hard on 3 delicious croissants! They’ll be up early on the day to bake fresh batches of Almond Croissants, Pain Au Chocolate (Chocolate Croissants) and regular Croissants.
Come in to Hastings Coffee Co. from 7.30am and try one of our fresh-baked croissants, from just $3 each.