It’s the summer of 1683 and the city of Vienna is under seige. The Ottoman Empire has asked that the Hapsburg city to surrender, and the leaders have told the Turks to (and I’m paraphrasing here) “take a long leap off a short pier”. The siege of Vienna was under way.
One of the many ideas that the Turks had to infiltrate the city was to dig tunnels beneath the city and their walls, set off explosions within the tunnels; which would in turn destroy said walls and allow the Turks to enter. It was a good idea, except for one variable that they could not have expected – a baker by the name of Peter Wender.
Mr. Wender was working in the basement of his bakery during the seige when he heard an unexplained sound coming from one of his walls. He alerted the city army and went to investigate and lo and behold, discovered the Turks and foiled their plan.
The baker, for his part, decided to advertise his part in preventing the invading army from…well…invading, and created a pastry in the shape of a crescent, which happened to be the symbol of the Ottoman empire.
After the Turks were ousted (with a fair amount of help from the Polish army), it became custom to serve morning coffee with Wender’s pastry. A tradition was born.
A century later, a Viennese princess by the name of Marie Antoinette married the French King Louis XVI. She insisted that the bakers in Paris learn how to make the treat. Over the years, the french bakers added butter and yeast to the mix, and the Croissant (meaning ‘crescent’) was born.
It’s a great story, but most of it is likely untrue. At the very least, the recipe for the croissant as you and I know it is not documented until 1906.
For those who like the mythology recounted above, have heart – rescent-shaped pastries called pfizers were baked in Vienna during the 17th century and that they migrated to France afterwards (although probably not at Mdme. Antoinette’s request). It is not beyond the realm of probability that this pastry was improved upon.
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