[Sca-cooks] The croissant, the chicken or the egg?

Suey lordhunt at gmail.com
Fri Nov 14 13:38:45 PST 2008

Euriol wrote:
> Croissants
> The origin of the croissant is one of the great food legends of all time.
> The Larousse Gastronomique offers this explanation regarding the origin of
> the croissant: 
> "Croissant...This delicious pastry originated in Budapest in 1686, when the
> Turks were besieging the city. To reach the centre of the town, they dug
> underground passages. Bakers, working during the night, heard the noise
> made by the Turks and gave the alarm. The assailants were repulsed and the
> bakers who had saved the city were granted the privilege of making a
> special pastry which had to take the form of a crescent in memory of the
> emblem on the Ottoman flag."
> ---Larousse Gastronomique, Jenifer Harvey Lang, editor [Crown:New York]
> 1988 (p. 338) 
> It's an interesting story. Is it true? Alan Davidson, noted food historian,
> expresses his doubts: 
> "Culinary mythology--origin of the croissant
> According to one of a group of similar legends, which vary only in detail,
> a baker of the 17th century, working through the night at a time when his
> city (either Vienna in 1683 or Budapest in 1686) was under siege by the
> Turks, heard faint underground rumbling sounds which, on investigation,
> proved to be caused by a Turkish attempt to invade the city by tunnelling
> under the walls. The tunnel was blown up. The baker asked no reward other
> than the exclusive right to bake crescent-shaped pastries commemorating the
> incident, the crescent being the sympol of Islam. He was duly rewarded in
> this way, and the croissant was born. The story seems to owe its origin, or
> at least its wide diffusion, to Alfred Gottschalk, who wrote about the
> croissant for the first edition of the Larousse Gastronomique [1938] and
> there gave the legend in the Turkish attack on Budapest in 1686 version;
> but on the history of food, opted for the 'siege of Vienna in 1683'
> version."
> ---Oxford Comapion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford Companion to Food:Oxford]
> 1999 (p. 232) 
> While the history of pastry dates back to ancient times, the history of the
> croissant [as we know it today], seems to be a relatively new invention.
> Part of the problem may be how one defines "croissant." Food history
> sources confirm that crescent-shaped pastries were baked in Vienna during
> the 17th century and that they migrated to France soon thereafter. They
> recount, but do not confirm/deny the story of the brave bakers who
> supposedly created the first croissants. This is what Mr. Davidson has to
> say: 
> "...croissant in its present form does not have a long history...The
> earliest French reference to the croissant seems to be in Payen's book "Des
> substances alimentaires," published in 1853. He cites, among the "Pains dit
> de fantasie ou de luxe," not only English 'muffins' but 'les croissants'.
> The term appears again, ten years later, in the great Littre dictionary
> [1863] where it is defined as 'a little crescent-shaped bread or cake'.
> Thirteen years later, Husson in "Les Consommations de Paris" [1875]
> includes 'croissants for coffee' in a list of 'ordinary' (as opposed to
> 'fine') pastry goods. Yet no trace of a recipe for croissants can be found
> earlier than that given by Favre in his Dictionnaire universel de cuisine
> [c. 1905], and his recipe bears no resemblance to the modern puff pastry
> concoction; it is rather an oriental pastry made of pounded almonds and
> sugar. Only in 1906, in Colombie's Nouvelle Encyclopedie culinaire, did a
> true croissant, and its development into a national symbol of France, is a
> 20th-century history."
> ---Oxford Companion to Food (p. 228) 
> Euriol
Excellent commentary. My version is:  "gazelle horns," buns made in that shape or "half moons," crescent shaped 13^th  C roll, "knee shaped," or "ka'b," in the shape of an extended circle, without a crown. These were the forerunners of croissants, which originated from Andalusia. By the 15^th  C the croissants known today were being made in Christian Spain. The Turks introduced them to Vienna in the 16^th C. or visa versa. Who introduced them to Austria is disputed. Some say that
they came with Ferdinand I of Hapsburg, brother of Charles V of Hapsburg who was Charles I of Spain and that when the Turks invaded, to belittle them, Austrians presented with the bun in the shape of a half moon to eat. Others maintain that it was the other way around to show the domination the Turks. They presented the half moon breakfast bun to the Viennese. It was not until the 18^th C that Marie Antoinette, wife of Luis XVI, is said to have introduced it to France. In the 8^th  C. the ingredients included a little oil, warm water, salt, ginger, anise or fennel and if desired sugar, some almonds and rose water.After baking, sometimes they were topped with pine kernels or caraway seeds.
By the 15^th  C. cold butter was included and the secret of success was the dough, which had to sit in a cold spot before baking. 
But what I want to know is who introduced them to Vienna, the Hapsburg's or the Turks?

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