What do Marie Antoinette, the Ottoman Turks and a baker have in common?
At first the connection can seem hard to find. But this story has deeply influenced the culinary tastes of one of the nations that prides itself most for their baked goods: France. Still don’t have a clue? In this post, we want to banish the notion that the French people invented the Croissant. Surprised? Actually, Austria is the birthplace of this world famous pastry and its shape is inspired by the Ottoman Turk Empire.
To track the origins of this delicious pastry, we have to go back to the 17th century. The Ottoman Empire was advancing through Europe, conquering Hungary and the Balkans. When the army, composed of more than 200,000 men, arrived to Vienna they encountered a major problem: the city was surrounded by a wall that made access very difficult. After several months of military siege and trying to starve the city into submission, the Turks attempted to tunnel underneath the walls of the city. The story follows that Vienna was saved by bakers! They were up early to bake bread and heard the sounds of the Turks digging and alerted the city’s defenders.
To commemorate the end of the siege several bakers made a pastry in the shape of the crescents to mimic the symbol on the Ottoman flag 1. This is how the Austrian kipfel originated in 1683. If nowadays you order a kipfel in Austria or Germany you’ll likely be handed a crescent-shaped cookie.
So… how did the croissant became what we know today? This is when Marie Antoinette earns credit. When she married King Louis XVI of France, homesick for a taste of her native Vienna, she introduced the Kipferl to French cuisine. It is said that the consistency of the Austrian traditional pastry was changed and made more refined by Versailles chefs to suit the Royal table. This is how the Austrian Queen introduced one of today’s most popular signs of French pastries, known in France as Viennoiseries (from Vienna).
Voilà! Now you know it
Today, the croissant is staple and signature breakfast food in French households and cafes, and sold in all bakeries and streets of France.
Argentina, land of immigrants, took the name “Croissant” and translated literally to spanish: Medialuna (half-moon). At Nuchas, we think the Argentines have improved upon this nearly perfect food - they glaze each medialuna with a sweet honey and citrus syrup! This pastry is one of the most traditional of Argentine Viennoiseries.
If you haven’t yet, come try our Medialunas! We serve them warm and ready to eat and also as an amazing ham and cheese sandwich, delicious at any time of day. Celebrate that you’ve learned something new today :)