A croissant (UK: /ˈkrwʌsɒŋ/; US: /krwɑːˈsɒ̃/, /krəˈsɒnt/; French pronunciation: [kʁwa.sɑ̃] (About this soundlisten)) is a buttery, flaky, viennoiserie pastry of Austrian and French origin, named for its historical crescent shape. Croissants and other viennoiserie are made of a layered yeast-leavened dough. The dough is layered with butter, rolled and folded several times in succession, then rolled into a sheet, in a technique called laminating. The process results in a
layered, flaky texture, similar to a puff pastry.
Crescent-shaped breads have been made since the Renaissance, and crescent-shaped cakes possibly since antiquity. Croissants have long been a staple of Austrian and French bakeries and pâtisseries. In the late 1970s, the development of factory-made, frozen, pre-formed but unbaked dough made them into a fast food which can be freshly baked by unskilled labor. The croissant bakery, notably the La Croissanterie chain, was explicitly a French response to American-style fast
food, and as of 2008 30–40% of the croissants sold in French bakeries and patisseries were baked from frozen dough.The kipferl, the origin of croissant can be dated back to at least the 13th century in Austria, and came in various shapes. The kipferl can be made plain or with nuts or other fillings (some consider the rugelach a form of kipferl). Some Egyptians claim, arguably, that the kipferl may have been based on the feteer meshaltet pastry known to the Egyptians.
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 tunneling 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 symbol of Islam.>
The birth of the croissant itself—that is, its adaptation from the plainer form of kipferl, before the invention of viennoiseries—can be dated to at least 1839 (some say 1838) when an Austrian artillery officer, August Zang, founded a Viennese bakery ("Boulangerie Viennoise") at 92, rue de Richelieu in Paris. This bakery, which served Viennese specialties including the kipferl and the Vienna loaf, quickly became popular and inspired French imitators (and the concept, if not the term, of viennoiserie, a 20th-century term for supposedly Vienna-style pastries). The French version of the kipferl was named for its crescent (croissant) shape and has become an identifiable shape across the world.
The first step of manufacturing croissants is the "predough" formation. To prepare predough, flour, water, in-dough fat, yeast, salt, and sugar are mixed together in a single step. Typically, croissant predough is mixed in a relatively cool environment, for a longer time than other pastries. The ideal temperature of the dough should be around 19 °C, to best hydrate the ingredients. In comparison to the mixing of bread dough ingredients, pastry predough is considered underdeveloped in that mixing is stopped as soon as the dough appears homogeneous, to allow for further dough development in the next step
Alan Davidson, editor of the Oxford Companion to Food, found no printed recipe for the present-day croissant in any French recipe book before the early 20th century; the earliest French reference to a croissant he found was among the "fantasy or luxury breads" in Payen's Des substances alimentaires, 1853. However, early recipes for non-laminated croissants can be found in the 19th century and at least one reference to croissants as an established French bread appeared as early as 1850. Zang himself returned to Austria in 1848 to become a press magnate, but the bakery remained popular for some time afterwards, and was mentioned in several works of the time: "This same M. Zank [sic]...founded around 1830 [sic], in Paris, the famous Boulangerie viennoise".
The puff pastry technique which now characterizes the croissant was already mentioned in the late 17th century, when La Varenne's Le Cuisinier françois gave a recipe for it in the 1680 and possibly earlier, editions. It was typically used not on its own but for shells holding other ingredients (as in a vol-au-vent). It does not appear to be mentioned in relation to the croissant until the 20th century.