Flaky Croissants and Hot Baked Memories

My husband has become something of a baker, and as he was allowing his dough to proof this weekend, he told me a fascinating story about the history of croissants.

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Croissants were not originally French pastries. They were Austrian, created by Viennese bakers who were responsible for helping defeat the Ottoman army of hundreds of thousands who had laid siege to the city in 1683. The Turks, unable to starve the city into submission, had undertaken a project to tunnel under the city walls by night and breach it that way. However, the Viennese bakers, who kept owlish nocturnal habits, heard the activity and were able to alert the city guard in enough time to enlist the rescuing help of the Polish king.

In celebration of their victory, bakers made kipfurl, a pastry baked in the shape of the same crescent as they had seen on the Turks’ standard, and the commemorative pastries became a staple in Austrian fare. It was only when an Austrian princess married the French King Louis XVI (yes, the same one – Marie Antoinette, whom we negatively associate with other breads and cakes), that the princess insisted that French bakers take on baking her favorite homeland pastry. It became renamed – croissant – French for crescent, retaining the history of being a story-telling confection in the name, even though the recipe changed significantly in the years that followed.

The story captured my imagination, and even though a little internet research poured some cold water on the historicity of the account, I don’t think I will ever eat croissants again without remembering this ditty. Just like, once I learned that ciabatta (which literally means “slipper”), was so named because the folded dough had the appearance of ballet flats, I now always think of those ciabatta loaves as “slipper bread”.

Not unlike a 90s tub-thumping song, my husband’s dough got knocked down, and then got up again – and finally he formed and shaped it into the hot-cross buns which we eat every year in celebration of Easter. These sweet, spicy, raisin-kissed buns form a crucial part (pun intended) of our Good-Friday and Resurrection Sunday tradition: marked with a cross, they are a story-telling confection, too.

Hot cross buns

Hot Cross Buns are Crucial

 

Which leads me to thinking that God shows his wisdom in yet another, surprising way – tapping deep into our senses with the idea of Breads of Remembrance. The Israelites were to remember their great deliverance by baking special bread for Passover: a reminder that they’d had to flee in haste, a double-reminder in bread free of yeast that they were free of Egypt.

Jesus taught us to pray for our Daily Bread – the everydayness of it a reminder of God’s provision. He taught his disciples that he himself is the Bread of Heaven – the everydayness of bread pointing to an everyday need for Him.

And, in a way far more profound than eating Hot Cross Buns, of the two specific ways Jesus gave for us to remember him, he told us to break bread and remember that this represented his body, given for us. “Feed on him in your heart by faith” we said, in the Anglican tradition.

We do.

He is life-giving.

Bread is on the menu in our house most days, and I want to do better at remembering.

And today, perhaps, there may even be croissants.

8 thoughts on “Flaky Croissants and Hot Baked Memories

  1. God made us, including our taste buds, and he knows that eating affects our thinking. When Jesus tore the bread, probably made fresh that day and smelling wonderful, and told his friends it was his body, what a powerful reinforcement that gave them to remember him every time they ate bread.

    The Bread of Heaven is our Bread of Life.

    • “Eating affects our thinking…” hmmm, I’m thinking of a syllogism here that somehow incorporates “I think, therefore I am”, with “you are what you eat”….. ergo: “You think what you eat?”

      QED.

    • And to you! I hope you had a very blessed Easter (and I hope for your sake there were hot cross buns!)

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  3. I enjoyed this post, Bronwyn. It’s neat to think that God (and Scripture) uses this bread metaphor so extensively, perhaps because it’s so fundamental to our existence.

    There seems to be a bread theme out there on the Interweb today: just this morning a Twitter friend of mine posted that a local Indian restaurant had given him their secret bread recipe, but he had to sign a “naan-disclosure agreement.” 🙂

    • Ha! I love this!! Yesterday I made an easter dinner with roast lamb, salad, minted peas and naan bread. Of course, the only thing my toddler wanted to eat was the bread, which he rather unceremoniously would dunk in milk before slurping it up. I, too, made a comment about his naan-dairy dietary preferences 🙂

  4. I made hot cross buns this year (of the chocolate chip variety) for the very first time. Truth be told, I had to make two batches because the first didn’t turn out. (200c is not the same as 200f. Oops.) My second batch was just so so, and I felt a little discouraged when they were all said and done. Maybe next year I’ll have to beg for your husband’s recipe. Or, I might just stick to hot cross scones… because scones I can handle. 😉 Thanks for this post, Bronwyn. I’m bookmarking for next Easter.

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