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

Terry Decker t.d.decker at att.net
Sat Nov 15 16:06:10 PST 2008

Crescent shaped rolls of enriched, and sometimes spiced dough, garnished 
with various seeds predate the Middle Ages.  They appear in Ancient Greece 
as part of the worship of Diana.

While there is no hard evidence as to who introduced croissants to Vienna, 
the city had ties to the Spanish Hapsburgs from 1519 into the 18th Century. 
While the Ottomans besieged the city in 1529 and again in 1683, they did not 
take the city either time and their influence was likely limited.  Puff 
pastry as we know it was possibly in Vienna before the Ottomans arrived. 
I've found a reference to a decree by the Council of Vienna in 1525 
condemning ostentation in a marriage ceremony with puff pastry among the 
ostentatious items.  As I have not located the text of the decree, I can't 
be sure of the reference.  Of course, it is entirely possible that the 
Viennese developed croissants made with puff pastry and introduced them to 
the rest of Europe.

There are references to "puff pastry" in the Middle Ages, but there is no 
way to tell if this is the puff pastry we now use.  Karen Hess states that 
the earliest recipe she can find that resembles modern puff pastry is in 
Thomas Dawson's, The Good Housewife's Jewell, the edition of 1586 (which may 
be a typo for 1596, I haven't checked on the various editions).  Presumably, 
there are a number of recipes for puff pastry collected in a book by 
Rontzier (1598) including a "Spanish" type of puff pastry (information 
unverified).  Also unverified, is the information that P.V. Aenglen gives a 
recipe for puff pastry in "The French Baker" (1665).  And, IIRC, we had a 
discussion several years ago about a puff pastry recipe in La Varenne.


> 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?
> Suey

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