Many people have heard that the croissant was created in 1686 in Budapest, Hungary by a courageous and watchful baker, at a time when the city was being attacked by the Turks. Working late one night, he heard odd rumbling noises and alerted the city’s military leaders. They found that the Turks were trying to get into the city by tunneling under the city’s walls. The tunnel was destroyed and the baker was a hero, but a humble hero — all he wanted in reward was the sole right to bake a special pastry commemorating the fight. The pastry was shaped like a crescent, the symbol of Islam, and presumably meant that the Hungarians had eaten the Turks for lunch.
The problem with this story is that it’s all made up. It first showed up in the first version of the great French food reference Larousse Gastronmique, in 1938. Later on, the story switched locations to Vienna, during the Turkish siege there in 1863, but that was also a fabrication.
The sad thing is, the truth in this case is not nearly as interesting as the myth. No one knows when or where the first croissant was baked, but it was definitely in France and certainly not before 1850. The word was first used in a dictionary in 1863. The first croissant recipe was published in 1891, but it wasn’t the same kind of croissant we are familiar with today. The first recipe that would produce what we consider to be a flaky croissant wasn’t published until 1905, and, again, it was in France.