Readers are no doubt familiar with the excitement and convenience of a ready-to-go “mezonot roll.” It looks like bread, tastes like bread, but is treated like a cookie from the perspective of halacha. According to the principles of this ingenious invention, one is not required to perform netilat yadayim before eating mezonot rolls, nor recite the Birkat Hamazon after eating them. Just as is the case with cookies, one recites the blessing borei minei mezonot before eating mezonot rolls and the quick al hamichya blessing afterwards.
Full disclosure: This writer is of the opinion that mezonot rolls are a halachic fraud. Avoid them whenever possible; otherwise treat them like ordinary bread1. But in order to better understand this somewhat zealous opinion, some background information is in order.
The Talmud rules that the blessing to be recited before eating pat haba’a b’kisnin (bread-like snack foods) is borei minei mezonot2. It is a matter of great dispute, however, as to exactly which foods qualify as pat haba’a b’kisnin3. Nevertheless, common custom is to accept as pat haba’a b’kisnin any foods within the bread family that are normally eaten as a snack, such as cake, cookies and pie. Indeed, all authorities agree that when eating a small amount of these items one is to recite borei minei mezonot4.
The main difference between bread dough (hamotzi) and cake dough (mezonot) is that cake dough is sweeter and is enjoyed far more often as a snack than as a meal. Although bread dough is ordinarily hamotzi, some authorities rule that as long as there is sweetness to the dough that is merely discernable it is sufficient to render the product a mezonot item. Other authorities, however, require that the sweet taste be the most dominant feature of the product in order to render it a mezonot item5.
The taste, texture, content, and use of mezonot rolls place them at the center of this dispute. They look like any other type of bun or roll and usually taste pretty much the same, although they are slightly sweeter than most other breads. Nevertheless, it is far from certain that this level of sweetness changes the item from a hamotzi product to a mezonot one. This is because not only is the sweetness level of these rolls important, but the manner in which they are eaten is significant as well. It is noted that one does not generally eat egg, tuna, salami, or other bread-type fillings with mezonot items such as cake or cookies. Indeed, it is actually unappetizing to do so. It follows, therefore, that one who eats such items with a mezonot roll is essentially demonstrating that one considers the product to be bread!
The reverse is also true. One who makes an entire meal out of pat haba’a b’kisnin such as cake or cookies (or otherwise eats an especially large quantity of such items) is required to perform netilat yadayim, recite hamotzi on the cake, and recite the Birkat Hamazon at the end of such a meal6. This is because eating “mezonot” foods in this manner demonstrates that they are essentially serving as one’s meal, which is a bread-like feature. In fact, one who eats even a small amount of cake or other mezonot food in combination with other meal-type foods in a quantity often consumed at a regular meal might be required to recite hamotzi and Birkat Hamazon in such a situation, as well!7.
Given all of these considerations, it is the conclusion of this writer that if it looks like bread, tastes like bread, and is used like bread, then it must be treated like bread, regardless of its level of sweetness. There is also nothing to lose by treating mezonot rolls as regular bread. In contrast, however, using a mezonot roll – which might not even truly qualify as mezonot in the first place – in a manner in which bread is normally used may be a violation of several prohibitions, including a biblical one.
Closely related to the issue of mezonot rolls is the matter of which blessing should be recited before eating pizza. The widespread custom of reciting mezonot on a slice of pizza due to the sweetness of the dough is difficult to justify. Although some argue that pizza has the status of “pie” and qualifies as a mezonot item for that reason alone, the Shulchan Aruch clearly states that one must recite hamotzi on pastries filled with meat, fish, or cheese8. This is because pastries prepared in this manner are generally eaten as a meal and not as a snack9.
At the very least, those who choose to rely on the authorities who rule that pizza is a snack food and therefore qualifies as a mezonot item must be sure to eat less than the amount eaten at an average meal. Otherise it is a meal and netilat yadayim, hamotzi, and Birkat Hamazon will be required10.
Even those who subscribe to the view that dough kneaded entirely with fruit juice automatically qualifies as mezonot should be aware that this is only true when 100% fruit juice is used. It does not include fruit juice from concentrate or a combination of pure fruit juice with some water added. Unfortunately, this writer has seen establishments claiming to produce such mezonot rolls and mezonot pizza dough in violation of this requirement, including establishments with the most Orthodox certification. Caveat emptor.
Next week: In defense of Mezonot Rolls.
- See Shulchan Halevi 1:3:3.
- Berachot 42a.
- Beit Yosef, OC 168.
- OC 168:6.
- OC 168:7; Devar Chevron 2:158.
- Berachot 42a; OC 168:6; Mishna Berura 168:24.
- Mishna Berura 168:24.
- OC 168:17; Devar Chevron 2:160.
- V’zot Haberacha, Birur Halacha 5:2; Shevet Hakehati 4:57.
- Shulchan Halevi 1:3:3.