National Pastry Day is celebrated on December 9th to salute one of the world’s favorite baked goods. Pastries can be traced as far back as the ancient Mediterranean, with treats such as paper-thin, multilayered baklava and Phyllo dough. This tasty indulgence spread throughout the Mediterranean, and pastry-making began in Northern Europe after the return of the Crusaders.
Pastries can be sweet or savory, and examples can be found in countless cultures around the world. Today we explore the history of two popular pastries, and where you can sample world-class variations of each right here in our neighborhoods.
These mainly savory but sometimes sweet pastries originate in Spain and Portugal. They first appeared in Medieval Iberia during the time of the Moorish invasions. They are now enjoyed by many Latin American and Hispanic cultures with slight variations, and of course are quite popular right here in New York City.
The diversity of empanada options is fortunately on full display in our neighborhoods. While this is a far from comprehensive list, Columbian restaurant Nadas at 48 Greenwich Street is one location to satisfy that empanada craving. Another is Classic Arepas at 31 West 8th Street for Venezuelan empanadas, Favela Cubana at 543 LaGuardia Place for Brazilian/Cuban, Baby Brasa at 173 7th Avenue South for Peruvian, Las Ramblas at 170 West 4th Street for Spanish, and of course Casa Adela at 66 Avenue C for Puerto Rican.
When you hear “croissant,” you probably think “France.” But modern croissants are a style of viennoiserie pastries, which originate in the Austrian city of Vienna, otherwise known as the birthplace of croissants.
While French croissants only date back about two hundred years, the ancestor to the modern-day croissant was the kipferl, which dates to the 13th century and comes in various shapes and sizes. Kipferl have possible but unconfirmed roots in ancient Egypt and are considered to be a form of rugelach, a Jewish pastry of Ashkenazic origin.
Croissants belong to the Viennoiserie or pastry category of baked goods, along with brioche and puff pastries. A croissant usually contains normal levels of salt, yeast, and sugar, but the amazing texture of croissants is created via a folding process that creates alternating layers of fat and dough. Read more the history and baking of croissants here.
One of our favorite croissants can be found at Patisserie Claude, a 2017 Village Awardee, at 187 West 4th Street. Amazing croissants can also be found at Patisserie Fouet at 15 East 13th Street, and Le Fournil at 115 Second Avenue. Again, this is not a comprehensive list, so feel free to explore further yourself, and let us know if we left your favorite croissant (or empanada) off this list!