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Straight vs crescent croissants: what's the fuss all about?

What does the Tesco's croissant ruling actually mean?

25 Feb 2016

How does my croissant usually look? I couldn’t actually tell you, it’s usually gone in 3 minutes before I get to take in its appearance. They have different shapes – either straight or the crescent shape – but this is a detail I have never paid too much attention to until now.

Tesco’s just announced that they will no longer be making the crescent shaped croissants but only the straight shaped ones. Tesco’s obviously have made both up until now which makes me wonder whether they are having some bizarre internal baking dispute.

Anyways, the Brits' voices have been heard and from now on Tesco's will no longer serve the crescent shape due to popular demand for the straight ones.

According to The Guardian, the demand came from around 70% of customers owing the preference to the ‘spreadibility factor’. Ha! It’s apparently challenging to spread your butter or jam evenly over the crescent shaped croissant. And this then puts the eater at risk of having ‘sticky fingers’. Yes that was actually a legitimate issue for consumers. Isn’t this just part and parcel with eating a croissant or any pastry for that matter?

The story makes for a funny piece of journalism – especially for the French who were (understandably) totally baffled at the idea. But it got me wondering what is the traditional or original shape of the beloved crescent pastry? Is it straight? Or crescent as the name suggests?
Croissant history

The crescent story dates back to the 1600s where Austria celebrated its defeat of the Turks by baking the kipferl pastry – a crescent shaped Brioche – which represented the crescent on their flag. The kipferl was baked all over Vienna after the defeat and today various French pastries are referred to as ‘viennoiseries’ which means Viennese pastries.

The kipferl (iStock)

The rumour goes that Marie Antoinette introduced croissants to France before the revolution. But they only became a commercial venture in 1838 when the first noted Viennese bakery opened in Paris.

So what about this crescent vs straight croissant feud. Clearly the crescent came first, however the straight has some meaning that is important to know if you’re visiting France but does not seem to hold much relevance to South Africa unless you’re at a bakery with strong culinary tradition.

Basically a straight croissant has to be all butter where as the crescent shape is available to croissants made with margarine, namely the beurre and the nature croissants respectfully. It’s an obvious choice and you can taste the difference immediately. Think Jason Bakery... there is no disputing whether you’re eating a butter croissant or not.


But the rules go on. And I’m sure many of you don’t eat a croissant the French way. Many French people took to Twitter when they heard about the Tesco’s fiasco asking why the heck Brits are spreading butter and other such things on their croissant. Are you feeling guilty yet? A croissant must not be cut open, made into a sandwich, be ‘spread’ on, nor eaten at any other time but the morning when they are still warm.

The Seattle Daily, reported on the ways of eating a croissant from a 'Seattle-ite' that had moved to Paris. She explained that eating a croissant is an act of appreciation. You break off small pieces and dip them into your coffee or add a little jam.

So the moral and irony of the story is that we should be eating the straight shaped croissants and not the crescent ones even though the very name suggests otherwise. Tesco’s has then unintentionally stuck to French tradition as their croissants are in fact all butter. However in SA, ask the baker as we do not take our pastries as seriously as the French, so there is no guarantee that this law is uphold down here.

All butter croissants at Kamili Coffee

Dinkel Bakery is the only place in Cape Town to make all butter spelt croissants.

...and we are open! Happy new year Tamboerskloof!

A photo posted by The Blue Café (@bluecafe_) on

Loaves on Long also serve all butter croissants.

- Ceili McGeever

Read more on: news  |  pastry  |  french


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