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Kipferl: Explaining the Austrian roots of the French croissant

Rachel Loxton
Rachel Loxton - [email protected]
Kipferl: Explaining the Austrian roots of the French croissant
A bowl of croissants. Photo: Pexels/Pixabay

While the croissant may be synonmous with France, did you know that it is said to originate in Austria?


The humble (and delicious) crossiant is a breakfast staple worldwide and a quintessential symbol of Frenchness. 

So you may be suprised to learn that it is widely believed to have been invented in Austria, where it is known as the Kipferl. 


Although there is debate over the origins, some say the crescent-shaped pastry can be traced back as far back as the 12th century. 

The City of Vienna said the oldest representation "can be found in the (medieval manuscript) 'Hortus deliciarum' from the time of Frederick I Barbarossa; there are also a few croissants that can be seen on a set table".

The first written mention of a crescent shaped baked good can be found in the 13th century in Jans Enenkel's 'Princes' Book', according to the City of Vienna.


At the beginning of the 17th century, the Kipferl appeared as a specialty from bakers in Mödling, south of Vienna who were competing with Viennese bakers. It is also said to have appeared in cookbooks of that time.

However, other tales point to the Kipferl being founded as a celebration of the Ottoman Empire’s defeat in the Battle of Vienna in the late 17th century. 

According to one legend, when the Ottoman empire besieged Vienna, they wanted to work their way into the city with the help of a tunnel.

But they had not reckoned with Austrian bakers. As usual, the bakers practiced their craft at night, and since it was quiet, they heard the underground digging, shoveling and scratching.

So the industrious bakers sounded the alarm, and in gratitude for their vigilance they received a license to bake croissants in the shape of the Turkish crescent. A couple, Peter and Eva Wendler, who ran a bakery are cited as the inventors of the Kipferl. However, most historians and experts say this is likely false. 

According to pastry chef Jürgen Davis from the Institute of Culinary Education (ICF), who trained in Vienna, these tales are "almost certainly untrue". 

READ ALSO: Seven common myths about Austrian food you need to stop believing

Vienna to Paris 

Regardless of the origins of how Kipferl came about, the pastries did end up making their way from Austria to France, thanks to migrants who launched a Parisian bakery. 

According to our sister site, The Local France, August Zang and Ernest Schwartzer, who came from Austria, opened their bakery in Rue de Richelieu, Paris in 1837. They specialised in the pastries and cakes of their homeland and are generally agreed to be the ones who popularised the Kipferl in France. 

READ ALSO: National croissant day - Five things to know about the not-so-French pastry


Despite their shop only being open for a few years, they sparked a craze for Viennese pastries, particularly the curved pastry which became known as a croissant in the French - the word meaning crescent.

Croissant in French retains its original meaning as 'crescent' as in the Mouvement international de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge (International movement of the Red Cross and Red Crescent).

Although the bakery doesn’t exist anymore, the croissant went to become famous worldwide. 

There's a popular myth that Marie-Antoinette, the daughter of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, brought the kipferl to France when she married Louis XVI. It is said that she brought her favourite baker with her so as not to have to do without her homeland's baked goods.

However, it doesn't appear in any kind of written record until more than 40 years after her death. Therefore, this story is generally considered unlikely. 


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