THE croissant has been a popular breakfast dish for centuries. The flaky bread-based pastry originated in Austria, although it has been long associated as a French invention since the Renaissance (14th-17th century).
In French, croissant literally means “crescent,” although not all croissants take the shape of a crescent.
According to legend, the origin of the croissant’s crescent shape is related to a defeat of the Turks who attempted to invade Vienna in 1683. Bakers in the town made crescent-shaped pastries to celebrate the event as a reference to the crescents seen on the Ottoman flags.
Croissants are commonly found in bakery and coffee shops in China and part of a continental breakfast. They are also taken as pre-meal bread in some restaurants serving Western-style full-course dinners.
People in China argue about whether they should be called yangjiaobao (a ram’s horn bun with a crescent shape) or niujiaobao (an ox’s horn bun with a straight shape).
In France, however, only a croissant made with pure butter can be straight. If you see curved or crescent moon-shaped croissants, joined at the ends, it means they have been made with some other fat, such as margarine.
There are many ways to enjoy a croissant. Most people have it with coffee in the morning, with butter or some preserve jams. Aside from the traditional plain croissant there is also the “pain au chocolat,” which is filled with chocolate.
At the end of last year, a new variation of the croissant became popular in bakery shops in some of China’s bigger cities. People refer to it as zangzangbao (literally a dirty bun). It is basically a pain au chocolat covered with a thick layer of chocolate custard cream and cocoa powder on top.
Shanghai Daily recently visited three establishments in Hangzhou in search of the city’s best croissants.
Mr Maimai is gaining popularity with its European-style bakery products.
Two or three years ago the market was dominated by Japanese-style soft white bread. But European bread is usually lower in sugar, with more fiber and therefore more welcomed by young people wanting a healthy diet.
To make a tasty croissant, you need to turn and roll the dough with a layer of butter inside several times until you get a square piece.
Cut the square diagonally and the remaining two triangles turn into the croissants we see later.
The final step is to roll the dough triangles into croissants before brushing egg wash over the top and baking them in an oven for around 15 minutes.
Cheese croissants and almond croissants are the two best sellers in the bakery.
The former is a croissant filled with extra cheese inside.
If you microwave the bread briefly before use, it is more delicious than if it is served cold.
Address: 4/F, Guoda City Plaza, 609 Yan’an Rd
While most of the croissants we see today are sweet ones, in America they can be served together with ham, cheese and other desired vegetables. These are called a croissan’wich.
They are commonly seen in coffee chain stores such as Starbucks. Greybox Coffee was established in 2016 with a focus on specialty coffee.
At the moment they have 11 stores in six cities including two establishments in Hangzhou.
It features a range of hand-brewed coffee, from the Nordic blend to the Australian blend, made by a group of professionals, including a champion from the 2016 World Brewers Cup competition.
Two kinds of croissan’wich set meals are offered, one with ham, cheddar cheese, tomatoes and honey mustard sauce, the other with tuna, boiled egg, pickles and sour cream tomatoes.
On the other hand, you can just order a plain croissant for an afternoon tea. The croissants are beautifully rolled up four times with a tempting golden crust.
Address: 1/F, Hangzhou Kerry Center, 385 Yan’an Rd
Tel: (0571) 8780-9762
Previously located on the bustling Wulin Road, it is known for only offering croissants in the shop.
The establishment has now moved to a shopping center near the Grand Canal.
Zoe Zhao, founder of the small bakery shop, lived in France for several years. She returned to Hangzhou with her favorite brunch time food in 2015.
You can find several types of croissant here, including pastry coated with maple syrup, topped with icing sugar-coated almond flakes, various fillings of mocha, whipped cream or banana chocolate.
One Bread is also a good place to try the zangzangbao.
The bread is quite heavy in hand, weighing around 80 grams.
The use of chocolate is generous inside and out and it is not excessively sweet.
The shop assistant told Shanghai Daily that only 80 pieces are baked and offered each day.
So if you want to get a fresh bite, make a phone call to get a home delivery.
Address: B1/F, Grand Canal Place, 58 Lishui Rd
Tel: (0571) 2882-8670