For members


Kipferl: Explaining the Austrian roots of the French croissant

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

A bowl of croissants.
A bowl of croissants. Photo: Pexels/Pixabay

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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For members


5 things you need to know about Austrian Glühwein

It's that time of year again when the delicious drink Glühwein will be on sale at Christmas markets and in bars all over the country. Here's what you need to know about the traditional winter beverage.

5 things you need to know about Austrian Glühwein

1. It existed before Christmas markets

Nowadays, sipping a hot mug of Glühwein is mostly associated with a visit to a traditional Austrian or German Christmas market, which might make you think that it was an invention of wine stand operators.

However, though Austrian and German Christmas markets have been around for nearly 600 years, some form of mulled wine has been a popular winter beverage since Roman times.

READ ALSO: When do Austria’s famous Christmas markets open this year?

The Romans had their own special recipe for Glühwein which combined wine with honey and spices such as pepper, bay leaf, saffron and dates.

The oldest documented consumption of Glühwein can be traced back to Count John IV of Katzenelnbogen, a German nobleman who was the first grower of Riesling grapes in the 15th century. Archaeologists found a special silver plated cup dating from 1420 which he used to sip the sweet and spicy drink.

READ ALSO: What are the best Christmas markets in Austria according to the locals?

2. Don’t overstep the 80C mark

When making your own batch of Glühwein at home – you’ll want to make sure that your ingredients – wine (red or white), sugar, cinnamon, cloves, lemon, orange and star anise – are simmering away at a temperature of no more than 80C.

A cup of mulled wine – or Glühwein – served at a Vienna Christmas market. (Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash)

Above 80C the alcohol evaporates, which is detrimental to the taste and causes the sugar to degrade. The ideal temperature for your Glühwein is between 72C and 73C and the perfect colour is a deep red. 

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3. It literally means ‘Glow wine’

The Glüh part of the word for this drink – which sounds a bit like the English word “glue” – comes from the German verb glühen meaning “to glow”.

The origin of the word Glühwein goes back hundreds of years when hot irons were used to heat the wine. It might help you to remember the meaning of the word by looking at the glowing cheeks of your friends while drinking a cup of the hot alcoholic drink.

IN PICTURES: A guide to the main Christmas markets in Austria

4. You can make it without alcohol (or with even more)

To make a non-alcoholic version of Glühwein – or Kinderpunsch (children’s punch) as it’s commonly referred to in German – you can replace the wine with a mixture of fruit tea, apple and orange juice. 

If you want to go the other way and make a Glühwein mit Schuss (mulled wine with a shot), you can add a dash of rum or amaretto to your cup full of Glühwein just before drinking. 

READ ALSO: How to celebrate Christmas like an Austrian

5. Glühwein makes you merry faster

Alcoholic hot drinks get you drunk faster, as their high temperature ensures that the alcohol enters the bloodstream more quickly and easily. Sugar also promotes alcohol absorption, so a cup of mulled wine will go to your head much more quickly than a glass of normal wine.

READ ALSO: Eight unmissable Christmas experiences in Austria