A croissant is a buttery, flaky, viennoiserie-pastry named for its well-known crescent shape. Croissants and other viennoiserie are made of a layered yeast-leavened dough. The dough is layered with butter, rolled and folded several times in succession, then rolled into a sheet, in a technique called laminating. The process results in a layered, flaky texture, similar to a puff pastry.
Croissant in EU
Crescent-shaped food breads have been made since the renaissance, and crescent-shaped cakes possibly since antiquity.
Croissants have long been a staple of Austrian and French bakeries and pâtisseries. In the late 1970s, the development of factory-made, frozen, pre-formed but unbaked dough made them into a fast food which can be freshly baked by unskilled labor. The croissanterie was explicitly a French response to American-style fast food, and today 30–40% of the croissants sold in French bakeries and patisseries are baked from frozen dough.
Croissants are a common part of continental breakfast.
The Kipferl, ancestor of the croissant, has been documented in Austria going back at least as far as the 13th century, in various shapes. The Kipferl can be made plain or with nuts or other fillings (some consider the rugelach a form of Kipferl).
The birth of the croissant itself–that is, its adaptation from the plainer form of Kipferl, before the invention of viennoiserie–can be dated to at least 1839 (some say 1838), when an Austrian artillery officer, August Zang, founded a Viennese bakery (“Boulangerie Viennoise”) at 92, rue de Richelieu in Paris. This bakery, which served Viennese specialities including the Kipferl and the Vienna loaf, quickly became popular and inspired French imitators (and the concept, if not the term, of viennoiserie, a 20th-century term for supposedly Vienna-style pastries). The French version of the Kipferl was named for its crescent (croissant) shape and has become an identifiable shape across the world.