January 30 is National Croissant Day! Most of us know it as a French specialty but the croissant, a style of viennoiserie pastry, actually originated in the Austrian city of Vienna under the name "kipferls".
The "kipferl" dates back to the 13th century and comes in various shapes and sizes. They are often filled with nuts or other fillings and are denser and sweeter to what we think of as the modern croissant.
Around the 17th century is when the dough began to change, and the style of the dough used in traditional croissants was first ever documented.
According to popular lore, the kipferl originated in 1683 as a symbol of celebration of Austrian victory over the Ottomans at the siege of Vienna. The story follows that a baker, up early to make bread, saved the city when he heard the Turks tunneling underneath the city and sounded an alarm. The kipferl’s curved shape is said to mimic the crescent moon of the Ottoman flag. The German word kipferl, or crescent, became a culinary re-enactment of Vienna’s victory.
How did the kipferl become the croissant?
Legend credits the French queen Marie Antoinette the first to introduce the Austrian pastry to France when she married into the royal family and requested the simple cake in the crescent shape of her homeland. French bakers created fancier versions of "kipferls" overtime and thus, the croissant was born!
However, the first real verified evidence of the croissant in France is due to an Austrian baker named August Zang. Zang opened the first Viennese bakery in Paris in 1838 and had Parisians flocking to his establishment to enjoy his delicious Vienna bread, kaiser rolls, and kipfel!
Parisians began calling them croissants because of their crescent shapes and within a few decades they became a staple of French breakfast foods.
The croissant began as the Austrian kipferl and became French when people began to make it with puffed pastry, which is a French innovation. If you order a kipferl in Austria or Germany today, you'll likely be handed a crescent-shaped cookie rather than a flaky croissant!