Reinventing the classic: croissants

Reinventing the classic: croissants

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Croissants sit on baking paper. One sits by itself to the left on a grey table

The croissant has long been the darling of the baking scene, and it’s little wonder why. But in recent years it has undergone numerous reincarnations from the Cronut and cruffin to the crookie, croissant rolls and now even cereal. But what is it about the croissant the inspires such creativity?

The beginning

Considered the perfect accompaniment to the morning cuppa, the croissant has long been a staple bakery item.

Most sources currently agree this bakery staple originated in Austria as kipferl, with records about the pastry –made from yeasted wheat dough – dating back to the 13th century.

The pastry then emigrated to France in the 19th century. One record has Austrian artillery officer August Zang founding a Viennese bakery in Paris in 1839, with the locals quickly falling in love with the kipferl and beginning to imitate it in their own bakeries. It’s at about this time that the name “croissant” also began appearing in historical records, referencing the crescent shape of the bread.

According to the Institute of Culinary Education, in 1915 Claudius Goy recorded the first known French version of the croissant recipe in which he used a laminated yeast dough to create the now-famous layers of flaky pastry, rather than the brioche dough that had been previously used.

Within a few years the croissant was firmly entrenched in the patisserie scene, to the point that in 1920 the croissant was named as the national French product by the French Government.

However, despite being such a classic staple – or perhaps because of it – the croissant is regularly being reinvented.

The Cronut is a croissant variation. Pictured is a Cronut cut in half with the inside pointing to the camera

The Cronut was created by Dominique Ansel in 2013

New York-based pastry chef Dominique Ansel, who invented the Cronut back in 2013, said part of the reason for this could be because the croissant forms the basis for so much of what pastry can be.

“I always say that if you give a pastry chef the basic building blocks of flour, butter, sugar, and eggs and with the proper foundations and training – in this case it’s all about practice, focus and patience – and a bit of imagination, they can build you a castle,” he said.

“There is something so classic and comforting about a good croissant. It’s almost a universal thing, that familiar shape, the flavour of the levain, golden flaky layers throughout. What’s funny is that people think it’s the most simple, basic pastry, but it is probably the hardest pastry to make and to perfect.”

Dominique and his team created the now trademarked Cronut 11 years ago, in May 2013, for Mother’s Day. The initial spark for the idea came from a suggestion from his girlfriend – now wife – about including a doughnut on the menu as part of the celebrations.

“We wanted to do something special for the weekend, and we change our menus quite often with new items all the time. My girlfriend, who is now my wife, suggested we do a doughnut but I’m French and didn’t have any recipes for doughnuts,” he said.

“I decided to work on something new, something that had the texture of a flaky croissant with all those beautiful layers, in the familiar shape of a doughnut. We made the filling rose vanilla, because it was for Mother’s Day.”

The final product took Dominique more than 10 different iterations and two months to develop, and is a laminated dough that is similar to a croissant but with a different proportion of ingredients.

“A lot of people have a misconception and think it is simply croissant dough that’s been fried,” he said.

“We worked on several rounds of testing and flavour combinations until we got it right.”

The end result exploded onto the bakery scene, in a move that Dominique said was totally unexpected.

“If you had told me 11 years ago this would happen, I would have never believed you. We, of course, change up the menu with the seasons, and this was just one more creation,” he said.

“A blogger friend of ours came by and asked what was new. I showed him this Cronut test. The next day he called and said his story had gone viral. He suggested we make more, but the Cronut takes three days to make. We made 30 or 40 that first day, then pushed it to 50 the next. By day three there were 150 people in line outside before we opened.”

The rise of social media

Two Crookies rest on a white plate.

The crookie is one of the more recent variations. Image: Miss Sina

Social media is increasingly playing a large part in both the formation of new products and the spread of their popularity. Take the crookie for example.

Its initial creation is attributed to the Paris-based Boulangerie Louvard before the concept made its way to New York City where it became infamous. Here in Australia the choc chip cookie-croissant hybrid gained popularity thanks in large part to social media platform Tik-Tok.

Sydney-based bakery Miss Sina has been credited with helping to bring the cult item to Australian shores.

Miss Sina owner Sina Klug said she and her head baker often scroll through social media late into the night in search for inspiration. One Wednesday night they came across the crookie and their interest was piqued.

“You bet we made the first one that Thursday morning. We already have amazingly flaky croissant and a stand-out cookie recipe, so this was a no brainer,” Sina said.

“We thought it was a fad and planned on offering it for two weeks only. But we now have a fulltime staff member just for making crookies, and have heard people have even booked flights to Sydney from Queensland and Victoria just to try them.”

A major perk of the crookie, according to Sina, is that they don’t need to be made in the middle of the night. Rather, they can be baked fresh each hour.

“This ensures everyone gets to enjoy them warm,” she said.

The supreme croissant roll

The supreme croissant roll

Another incarnation that can thank social media for its fame is the supreme croissant roll.

Their creation is credited to Lafayette Grand Café and Bakery in New York City, and sees a croissant shaped into a spiral before being filled with pastry crème and covered with ganache and a variety of toppings. By early 2022 the supreme croissant roll had begun began to appear more frequently on bakery shelves and word was spreading fast.

Croix Croissant co-owner Rizka Krisnandika said it was shortly after first seeing the croissant roll online that they knew they had to bring the trend to Australia.

“It was at the same time as when we were just about to open our first store in Melbourne, so we thought we’d be one of the firsts to do it and make it our specialty. It worked out well,” Rizka said.

Structurally, the croissant roll differs from a traditional croissant. Rizka said a good croissant roll will still be flaky on the outside, but will be more crunchy and have more structure than a traditional croissant due to the way it’s shaped.

“The layers will be tighter and smaller rather than airy like a traditional croissant, resulting in more structure without being dense,” she said.

“Customers have been so excited [about it] since they can’t find it in just any conventional bakery. And, because we are doing the vegan version as well in Melbourne, it quickly became a star and brought people from across town to our little shop.”

Looking to the future

New variations of croissants are hitting the baking scene with increasing regularity, from the flat croissant, which first surfaced in bakeries in Seoul, South Korea, in 2023 and is exactly what the name says: croissants that have been intentionally pressed down and compressed, to the newly created Japanese-inspired Oinoissant.

These take inspiration from Japaense Onigiri – rice balls that are formed into triangular or cylindrical shapes that are then wrapped in nori. The Oinoissant removes the rice and instead uses the flaky pastry instead, and a savoury filling is piped in before a piece of seaweed is added.

Then there’s the mini croissant cereal that Jonathan Camilleri from JC Patisserie Boulangerie in Melbourne brought home with him from the Big Apple earlier this year.

Croissant cereal is pictured in a white bowl

Croissant cereal is a new trend to hit the baking scene

Inspired by the cereal created by Brooklyn-based L’Appartement 4F, Jonathan spent a month working on his own version, cutting and hand-rolling the miniature pastries from the same dough sheets used to make the traditionally sized croissants.

But what is it about the croissant that inspires both such dedication and creativity?

Dominique said it could be the mixture of skill required and amount of time needed to truly master the pastry.

“Pastry chefs work years and years to master a croissant. To this day, I don’t know if I’ve ever come close to making the perfect croissant. I’m still looking for ways to get better and better each day,” he said.

“It’s exciting to see what this new generation of pastry chefs are creating. There’s always room for learning and creativity, and to support each other in growing and sharing what we do with the world.”

Rizka agreed with this, adding the technical skill required to make a traditional croissant lent itself to the ability to transform it into new creations, allowing bakers to challenge both their skills and creativity.

“The traditional croissant itself is not an easy job,” she said.

“Let alone mastering a recipe that is great to taste, with the right shape and layers and all the characteristics of a good croissant.”


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