A croissant is a buttery flaky bread or pastry named for its distinctive crescent shape. It is also sometimes called a crescent or crescent roll. Croissants are made of a leavened variant of puff pastry. The yeast dough is layered with butter, rolled and folded several times in succession, then rolled into a sheet, a technique called laminating.
Crescent-shaped breads have been made since the Middle Ages, and crescent-shaped cakes (imitating the often-worshiped Moon) possibly since classical times.
Fanciful stories of how the kipferl - and so, ultimately, the croissant - was created are culinary legends, at least one going back to the 19th century. These include tales that it was invented in Europe to celebrate the defeat of a Muslim invasion at the decisive Battle of Tours by the Franks in 732, with the shape representing the Islamic crescent; that it was invented in Vienna, Austria in 1683 to celebrate the defeat of the Turks to Polish forces in the Turkish siege of the city, as a reference to the crescents on the Turkish flags, when bakers staying up all night heard the tunneling operation and gave the alarm; tales linking croissants with the kifli and the siege of Buda in 1686; and those detailing Marie Antoinette's hankering after a Polish specialty.
Croissants have long been a staple of French bakeries and patisseries. 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. Indeed, the croissanterie was explicitly a French response to American-style fast food, and today 30-40% of the croissants sold in French bakeries and patisseries are frozen.
This innovation, along with the croissant's versatility and distinctive shape, has made it the best-known type of French pastry in much of the world.
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- Parlez-Vous Croissant? @ Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives: The croissant has evolved…into a crescent roll. Let me explain. From the time I was in college until about 10 years ago, croissants were flaky, layered, buttery rolls of heaven. Then something happened..
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Paris Specialities, europe-cities.com
French Croissants, www.bakerycroissant.com