The Austrian who transformed French breakfasts “the breakfast”
The next time you walk around your room bakery and treat yourself to a Sunday croissant or other delicious pastries (in Viennese style) you have – for the most part – the dapper type pictured above to thank for the baked pastries on display.
August Zang, born in 1807, has lived a lifetime. Son of a surgeon, he served in the Austrian army before going to Paris where he founded – without having any conspicuous bakery experience – his first bakery at 92, rue de Richelieu: the Boulangerie Viennoise.
Crescent moon shaped breads or pastries are believed to have been offered to the moon goddess in ancient times, and this was Zang’s (steamed) version of the traditional Austrian bun in crescent shape – the kipfel – which made a name for itself and hooked avid Parisians. The interior of the chic boutique was also an innovation – both this method and Zang’s methods have been widely copied and within decades the new croissant has become a staple of French breakfast. [The term viennoiserie was not employed until the 20th century.]
Zang returned to his homeland in 1848 and built a remarkable career as a press mogul, banker and mine owner, founding Die Press – a large-format German-language newspaper that is still in print today. Inexpensive and fueled by advertising, it was a huge success. When he died in 1888 at the age of 80, the newspaper barely mentioned his baking exploits – presumably because he disparaged his status as super-rich and high.
Today, in all regions of France, you can find the creators of a ‘best croissant‘- but all owe a historic debt to the Austrian.
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