Viennoiserie could well be the most popular category of French pastry in the world, due to the croissant, its most well-known baked good. As it happens, however, the roll, which is in the shape of a crescent, isn’t actually as French as many think. It, in fact, came from the one-time Austrian Empire. The word itself describes a category of pastry that includes brioche, pain au raisins, and croissants. These pastries are associated with France, traditionally.

From Austria to France

The croissant’s ancestor, the kipferl, dates back to 13th century Austria. The story of the modern croissant began in 1683 when the Turks, who had invited Austria, tried to tunnel underneath Vienna’s walls during the city’s Ottoman siege. Fortunately, however, bakers working overnight heard the Turks digging and so notified the defenders of the city. King John 111 made his timely arrival to beat the city’s enemy.

Some accounts say that these bakers wished to create a pastry that would represent the crescent moon to celebrate the victory. A crescent moon appears on the Turkish flag. Kipferl is German for crescent and it symbolised eating the Turkish enemy. It wasn’t until 1770 that the kipferl made its way to France and was later named “croissant”.

The pastry chef and the baker

There is very little distinction between a pastry chef and a baker in France. This distinction boils down to cold and hot materials. The pastry chef works with only cold materials while the baker works with the oven when creating such rustic products as breads. The pastry chef concerned himself with the creation of artful confections like icings, fillings, and fruits.

So, who is responsible for making croissants?

Viennoiserie could be, on one hand, regarded as being the product of a baker. Surely, he is the one who perfects the brioche crust. Making the croissant so that the result is light and fluffy, as well as buttery, however, lies firmly in the hands of the patisserie chef. Should you pay a visit to Paris, however, there is more chance of you coming across viennoiserie in a bakery, as opposed to a patisserie. Therefore, bakers are provided with the opportunity to be artistic.

What is viennoiserie?

Traditional viennoiserie is produced with white wheat flour. Packaged yeast cultures are also used. These cultures result in the dough’s quick rising, which creates the flawless flakiness once baked. Starter yeast cultures are less developed and so are unable to produce the necessary consistency demanded by viennoiserie in the required amount of time. That explains why packaged yeast cultures are used.

The dough is referred to as a pate viennoise and originally became a prominent part of France pastry culture due to a small Parisian bakery called Boulangerie Viennoise. August Zang, an Austrian military official, opened the bakery between 1837 and 1839. Only a short amount of time had passed when Zang’s kind of pastry became a phenomenon in the city. So, while the pastries were technically invented in Vienna, it was in Paris where they were perfected.