Vienna’s kipferl – the croissant’s grandfather

Vienna’s kipferl – the croissant’s grandfather

2 minutes to read

Not so many people are aware that the croissant that is now seen as a French national symbol is actually not French. The story of croissant starts in Vienna, and in order to explain it, we have to go back in history and introduce you the croissant’s grandfather - Vienna’s kipferl.

Legends about the kipferl

There are many legends on how the kipferl came to existence. The most interesting and most common ones involve the Turks and the medieval siege of Vienna. There were two unsuccessful attempts by the Ottoman Empire to capture the city of Vienna. Allegedly, during the Second Siege of Vienna in 1683, a Viennese master baker named Peter Wendler created a crescent-shaped pastry to mock the Turkish crescent, that they wanted to plant on the Vienna’s St. Stephen's Cathedral. So, every time a Viennese bites a kipferl, he eats a Turkish enemy, so to speak. However, the planting of the Turkish flag had never happened because Vienna was successfully defended both times. Another legend involving the siege of Vienna says that the bakers, because they had to get up early, were the first to notice how the Ottomans wanted to gain the access to the city through a tunneling work. They had sounded the alarm and thus significantly contributed to the rescue of Vienna.

Picture © Credits to Wikipedia / Tyssil
Picture © Credits to Wikipedia / Tyssil

However, the historians can‘t prove the authenticity of this legend. The fact that the shape of kipferl is related to the Turkish crescent is not enough. Instead, the kipferl is much older, and it dates even back to the pagan times when it was baked as a part of pagan customs. Even in the monasteries, the croissant-shaped rolls were baked for Easter. Some historians believe that the origin of kipferl goes back to the monastery bakeries, that were the first bakeries. In the written documents, the curved pastry was first mentioned in the 12th century.

From Kipferl to Croissant

It is strongly believed that the Austrian kipferl served as a model for a French croissant. Marie Antoinette, a daughter of the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa, was married to a French king Louis XVI. Through her, the crescent shape of kipferl allegedly came in the 18th century to the French court. In the beginning, the croissants were made from a yeast dough (brioche), and they were named after the shape of the waxing moon (croissant de Lune). It was only since the end of the 19th century that today's croissants are made from a fine layered yeast-leavened dough.

Picture © Credits to iStock / HeikeRau
Picture © Credits to iStock / HeikeRau

In Vienna, you can find the kipferl in almost all bakeries, such as the big chains Anker, Ströck or Der Mann. After many centuries, they are still an important part of Vienna’s cuisine. However, it is not that known worldwide that the kipferl is the grandfather of croissant.

Picture © Credits to Wikipedia / euphro
Picture © Credits to Wikipedia / euphro

The author

Ogi Savic

Ogi Savic

I am Ogi. A journalist and economist, I live in Vienna and I am passionate about skiing, traveling, good food and drinks. I write about all these aspects (and more) of beautiful Austria.

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