Un croissant, s’il vous plaît.
January 30, 2020 is dedicated to the celebration of the flaky, buttery, crescent-shaped deliciousness that are croissants. Most of us associate croissants with French cuisine and assume their origin dates back to France. But the truth of their creation is a not so straightforward.
The croissant most likely originated in Austria in the 13th century under the name kipferl, which came in various shapes. Stories of how the Kipferl (and ultimately, the croissant) was created are widespread and persistent culinary legends, going back to the 19th century. Some Egyptians even claim that the kipferl is based on feteer meshaltet, a flaky, layered pastry created in Ancient Egypt.
The legends include:
- Tales that the croissant was invented in Europe to celebrate the defeat of the Umayyad forces by the Franks at the Battle of Tours in 732, with the shape representing the Islamic crescent.
- That it was invented in Buda.
- According to other sources, it was created in Vienna in 1683 to celebrate the defeat of the Ottomans by Christian forces in the siege of the city, as a reference to the crescents on the Ottoman flags, when bakers staying up all night heard the tunneling operation and gave the alarm.
- Yet another legend, says that Marie Antoinette first introduced the Austrian pastry to France when she married into the royal family and requested the simple cake in the crescent shape of her homeland.
- Many in the Arab world hold to an alternate origin for the croissant. In this account, the croissant is thought to originate from the feteer meshaltet, known to the Egyptians since the Eighteenth Dynasty (c.1292 BCE or earlier). During the Mamluk period (1250–1517 CE), a crescent-shaped variant of feteer meshaltet called “feteer halali” emerged and spread to Europe and France, where it became known as the croissant.
Regardless of how it came to be, by 1869, the croissant was well established enough to be mentioned as a breakfast staple. And in 1872, Charles Dickens wrote of “the workman’s pain de ménage and the soldier’s pain de munition, to the dainty croissant on the boudoir table.”
In France, the croissant has become more sophisticated over time, influenced by the cuisine style of its country. At its most basic level, it’s a frugal kind of breakfast pastry, made from pâte feuilletée (soft flour of flour, yeast, butter, milk and salt).
ISI’s very own CEO, Emilie grew up in France and continually surprises the office with delicious home-made French treats. Here are Emilie’s top French cooking tips:
- Put your leftover wine in the freezer in ice cube trays. Later, you can use these wine ice cubes for your sauces and to give body to your side dishes.
- Fresh herbs can turn bad quickly, which is a shame because they add something extra to our meals. To preserve fresh herbs, grab an ice cube tray, put your herbs in it, pour in oil, chill and voilà — your fresh herbs are preserved for future use!
- If your dish is bland, add a touch of acidity. The acidity will give life to your dish. A little lemon juice or vinegar reduces the fat, enhances taste and awakens bland dishes. Like salt and sugar, acidity balances taste and makes your dishes shine.
- To remove unpleasant odors from your hands after cutting onions or garlic, rub them with a stainless steel spoon. Stainless steel absorbs bad odors.
- Prevent your potatoes from sprouting by placing an apple in the middle of the bag in which you store them.
- When you put too much fat in a soup or dish, add an ice cube. The fat will naturally accumulate around the ice cube. Then use a tablespoon or ladle to extract the fat.
- When your soup is too salty, add a peeled potato to the pan. The potato will absorb the salt.