Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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croissant, in its classic formulation, derives from a pâte feuilletee dough that also includes yeast and a larger portion of butter. Traditionally, it has a crescent shape (croissant being French for crescent), although with the popularization of industrially produced versions, the pure butter croissant has recently lost its curve. See crescent.

Few foods have such potent emblematic power. Although produced internationally, croissants evoke France, bringing to mind visions of beret-wearing Frenchmen dipping their morning pastry into a steaming bowl of café au lait. Fewer foods still have histories as murky and steeped in erroneous culinary “fakelore.” The most frequently repeated legend attributes the invention of the croissant to Viennese bakers, who during the 1683 siege of Vienna by the Ottoman Turks purportedly created a pastry inspired by the crescent of their enemy’s flag. Alternatively, this same tale is recast during the Ottoman siege of Budapest of 1686.