Delightfully crispy outside, perfectly glutenous inside, and each bite packed with buttery goodness, nothing tastes like France quite like the croissant. With its trademark golden sheen and omnipresence on nearly every street, it's fair to say that it rivals the crêpe as one of France's favorite treats.
Croissant, kipfel or crescent moon?
A staple of every boulangerie in the Hexagone, you'd understandably think that croissants were distinctly French. However, much like Breton buckwheat crêpes, the inspiration for these flaky-yet-tender darlings may lie outside France's borders.
Some legends (External link) point to the arrival of Marie Antoinette, homesick for her native Austria, imported the Austrian kipfel (a delicacy whose murky origins also ascribe its crescent shape to the Turkish flag following the siege of Vienna), which became the croissant when the French made it with puff pastry. Another credits a famous 19th century Austrian baker August Zang for bringing kipfel to Paris, where it began its transformation.
Regardless of the origins, croissants rapidly made their home in France, alongside baguettes and macarons, as one of the tastiest claims to fame!
Signs of quality
Of course, with nearly 30,000 boulangeries (External link) in France, quality is more the question over quantity.
"A perfect croissant, it's a very crispy croissant with a lot of puff pastry, and it smells a good taste of butter inside. A bad croissant is very soft, like a brioche, and you can't have a very good smell of butter, it's not creamy inside" explains Lauren Duchêne, one of France's most beloved bakers, awarded the title Meilleur Ouvrier de France (Best Artisan of France).
Other things to look out for are the hallmark golden-brown luster, indicating perfect flakines, and a sign outside the bakery reading fait maison, or homemade, to ensure freshness.