This crescent-shaped delight is considered integral to the cultural heritage of the French. But Its origins actually begin in Vienna, Austria.
“Croissant” comes from the word for “crescent”, as in a “crescent moon”. This describes the pastry created from rolling and folding buttery dough over and over into a thin sheet that is then cut and rolled into its iconic shape, which fully forms as it bakes into a tempting golden brown.
To this day, no mention of croissants has been found in French recipes from before the 20th century. But the croissant’s origins have been documented since 1838 or 1839 as being inspired by “Kifli” or “Kipfel”. These are traditional breads made from plain flour that may contain nuts or similar ingredients, which bakers form into crescent shapes before baking. Breads like this were very common and were called different names across Central Europe. They also pre-date the Viennese-style baked goods (Viennoiserie) from Austria.
There is evidence that it all began when August Zang, an Austrian artillery officer, opened the Boulangerie Viennoise on Richelieu Street in Paris. It is said that his Viennese breads and baked goods were so famous that he inspired the French bakers to imitate his crescent-shaped breads, which turned into the world-famous croissant we know today.
Even now, the crescent moon croissant has evolved further as creative expressions of bakers and foodies alike.