Made from layer upon layer of flakey pastry, loads of butter, and tasting like heaven, the croissant (pronounced “kwa-son”) is simply a thing of joy and wonder. Since the 19th-century, croissants have been an important part of breakfast in various countries and with different variations in fillings and toppings. If you would love to wow your friends with some croissant trivia, read on to discover some interesting croissant facts.
Facts about Croissants
1. The ancestor to the modern-day croissant is the “kipferl”, which hails from Austria.
Culinary experts agree that the prototype of the modern-day croissant is the “kipferl”, which first appeared in Austria in the 13th century.
Kipferl are small, curved, sweet pastries mostly made from yeast dough. They taste more like bread rolls and due to the lack of lamination (the process of folding and rolling butter into dough over and over again to create super-thin layers), don’t possess the characteristic flaky texture of croissants that is so loved today.
2. The origin of the croissant is one of the great food legends of all time.
The history of croissants is literally the stuff of legend. One often-told story tells that the croissant was concocted by a Viennese baker after the city defeated the Ottoman army at the Battle of Vienna in 1683.
To commemorate the city’s victory over the Ottoman Turks, the baker created a special pastry in the shape of a crescent moon, a symbol of Islam and the Ottoman flag. Thus, each bite of the pastry would be a symbolic expression of the Ottoman’s crushing defeat.
A similar story is told in Hungary, albeit with Budapest as the setting. Food historians dispute both versions and as food historian Jim Chevallier notes, the crescent pastry made by the baker would have been a kipferl, not a croissant.
3. Marie Antoinette did not popularize the croissant.
Popular legend credits the French Queen and Austrian native, Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) with introducing the kipferl, and thus the croissant, to France.
Homesick for the taste of her native Vienna after her marriage to King Louis XVI of France, it is said that she introduced the kipferl to Versailles when she asked the court bakers to make her the sweet pastry.
However, food historians see no evidence to support this notion and agree that the baked good only became popular in France during the 19th century.
4. Austrian entrepreneur August Zang is credited with popularizing the kipferl, the prototype of the modern-day croissant, in France.
Historical evidence attributes Austrian entrepreneur August Zang with introducing and popularizing the kipferl, the prototype of the modern-day croissant, to France. In 1838, Zang opened the first Viennese bakery in Paris.
Located at 92 Rue Richelieu on the Right Bank (the right side of the Seine river in Paris), Zang’s upscale boulangerie specialized in bread and pastries from his native Vienna, most notably the kipferl. With the aid of his patented steam oven, Zang’s kipferl were noticeably flakier than the traditional pastries French people were accustomed to at the time.
The kipferl quickly became popular and many inspired French imitators. As the fashionable new pastries became more common, the French began referring to them as croissants due to their crescent shape.
5. The croissant, as we know it today, wasn’t created until the early 1900s.
Although the kipferl had firmly taken up residency in France in the 19th century, it was still a far cry from the flakey pastry we know today. The croissant, as we know it, was born in the early 20th century when French pastry chefs replaced the brioche type dough with yeast-leavened puffed pastry (Pâte levée feuilletée) dough and copious amounts of butter.
In 1905, a recipe using yeasted puff pastry dough instead of brioche dough appeared in Auguste Colombie’s book “Nouvelle Encyclopedie Culinaire.” Furthermore, in 1915, French pastry chef Sylvain Claudius Goy published a croissant recipe with a leavened puff pastry dough, calling for the rolled puff pastry to be yeast-leavened and laminated with butter in his book “La cuisine anglo-américaine.”
This innovative technique of layering fat and dough into a characteristic lamination remains at the core of how the modern-day French croissant emerged. It completely changed the texture and mouthfeel of the pastry significantly, yielding a puffier, crispier specimen with well-differentiated layers as compared to the kipferl introduced by Zang in the 1830s.
Soon, the butter croissant made with yeast-leavened puff pastry had all but completely overshadowed its Austrian predecessor. However, one of the most intriguing croissant facts is that no one knows for certain who invented the modern-day French croissant recipe.
6. The croissant started out as a luxury good reserved for the bourgeois and the aristocracy.
During the 19th century, the croissant (still in its kipferl-like form) started out as a comestible for the wealthy because baking ingredients like eggs and butter were very expensive. The high price of these ingredients made the croissant unaffordable for the hoi polloi.
It wasn’t until the early 20th century when prices for these goods decreased, croissants became more widely accessible and affordable for the average French person. From then on, the croissant became a familiar fixture in everyday French life.
7. There are only eight ingredients in a French croissant recipe.
The eight ingredients that go into making a classic French butter croissant (croissant au beurre) are:
8. In France, there’s a reason why some croissants are curved and others are straight.
The French like full disclosure on what they are eating, so the bakers have to let people know what is in their croissants. As a rule of thumb (though not all bakers adhere to that standard), croissants that are straight are those made with butter (croissants au beurre), and the curved ones are made with margarine (croissants ordinaires).
The classic butter croissant remains the superior choice since margarine croissants tend to be denser, aren’t as fluffy with flakey layers, and lack sheen. However, because margarine is much cheaper than butter, margarine-based croissants are more common in France than natural butter croissants.
9. A croissant is classified as a “Viennoiserie” in France.
In France, the croissant is part of the category of pastries that the French call “Viennoiserie”, a nod to their origins in Vienna. Literally meaning “things of Vienna”, Viennoiserie is a collection of sweetened and rich baked products that are usually made from white flour and an active yeast to make them rise.
Besides croissants, examples of viennoiserie include pain au chocolat, pain au raisin, brioche, Vienna bread, and danishes.
10. The worldwide popularity of the croissant has led to the creation of Croissant Day.
Croissant Day is celebrated on 30 January each year. It’s a day that gives everyone an excuse to enjoy this beloved flaky treat.
11. There are several other croissant variants in addition to the typical butter and margarine croissants.
Some popular croissant variations include:
- Almond Paste Croissants
- Apricot-Filled Croissants
- Apple Croissants
- Cheese-Filled Croissants
- Dulce de Leche Croissants
- Chocolate-Filled Croissants
- Ham-Filled Croissants
- Raspberry Croissants
- Salmon-Filled Croissants
- Sourdough Croissants
12. Since 2013, croissant hybrids have gained immense popularity.
Croissant hybrids have gained immense popularity since 2013 when French pastry chef Dominique Ansel sold his very first cronut at his eponymous New York bakery. The cronut is, of course, a cross between a croissant and a doughnut. They’re made with flaky croissant dough, but shaped and filled like a doughnut with flavored creams and custards.
The cronut was an instant hit and has spawned a spate of crossovers that can be found in avant-garde bakeries across the globe. Some of the most popular croissant hybrids are:
1. Cruffin = croissant + muffin
2. Cragel = croissant + bagel
3. Cretzel = croissant + pretzel
4. Tacro = taco + croissant
5. Crotilla = croissant + tortilla
6. Croiffle = croissant + waffle
6. Crupcake = croissant + cupcake
8. Crossushi = croissant + sushi (possibly the weirdest one)