Why Croissants are baked in the form of a crescent

January 17, 2019

Painting of John III Sobieski by Daniel Schultz

In 1683 the Turks invaded Hungary, and, completely overrunning the country, reached Vienna, to which they laid siege, for the second time in its history. Incidentally, they nearly succeeded in capturing it. During the siege, bakers’ apprentices were at work one night in underground bakehouses, preparing the bread for next day’s consumption. The lads heard a rhythmic “thump, thump, thump,” and were much puzzled by it. Two of the apprentices, guessed that the Turks were driving a mine, and ran off to the Commandant of Vienna with their news. They told the principal engineer officer of their discovery, accompanied them back to the underground bakehouse, and determined that the boys were right. Having got the direction from the sound, the Austrians drove a second tunnel, and exploded a powerful counter-mine. Great numbers of Turks were killed, and the siege was temporarily raised.

King John III Sobieski sending a message of Victory to the Pope after the Battle of Vienna, painting by Jan Matejko.

On September 12, 1683, John Sobieski, King of Poland, utterly routed the Turks, drove them back into their own country, and Vienna was saved. As a reward for the intelligence shown by the baker-boys, there were granted the privilege of making and selling a rich kind of roll in the shape of the Turkish emblem, the crescent. These rolls became enormously popular amongst the Viennese, who called them Kipfeln. When Marie Antoinette married Louis XVI of France, she missed her Kipfel, and sent to Vienna for an Austrian baker to teach his Paris confreres the art of making them. These rolls, which retained their original shape, became as popular in Paris as they had been in Vienna, and were known as Croissants, and that is the reason why one of the rolls which are brought you with your morning coffee in Paris will be baked in the form of a crescent.

Click here for a recipe

The Vanished Pomps of Yesterday, by Lord Frederic Hamilton. (Doubleday, Doran & Co., Inc., Garden City: 1934) Pg. 56-57.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 661

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