The Mezonos Roll… Is It a Piece of Cake?
Rabbi Yaakov Luban
Knowing what blessing to say on all those new grain products is not as simple as it looks. Today’s trick question is: “What Beracha do you say on a Mezonos roll?” ORIGINAL ARTICLE
The Mezonos Roll… Is It a Piece of Cake?
The initial Beracha on a “Mezonos Roll” should be, Borei Minei Mezonos rather, than HaMotzi Lechem Min HaAretz, and the concluding Beracha Al HaMichyah instead of Birchas HaMazon. Secondly, Mezonos Rolls do not require Netilas Yadayim, the ritual washing of hands mandated by Jewish law prior to consuming bread.
Today “Mezonos Rolls” are another bit of furniture on the Jewish mindscape, and are part of our vernacular.
However, Mezonos and HaMotzi rolls are not determined, as they were once and as recorded in Halacha, by their ingredients. Once upon a time, bread was made from yeast, flour and water, and a pinch of salt. Any addition of sweeteners or fruits, nuts, oil, spices etc. rendered that bread no longer the type of bread that was eaten at a meal. This is the true Halchic turning point where HaMotzi becomes Mezonos. [MaAmar Mordechai and Aruch Hashulchan]
Today of course we regularly eat breads that contain oils, egg, sugar etc. In fact some sweet Challah is sweeter even than some cakes. A Posek who suggested to us that bread was defined as “that which is not so sweet, that one would eat it with herring” had to quickly back down when we pointed out that people readily eat herring with sweet Challah and with “Mezonos rolls” even though they are far less sweet than some sponge cakes, and no-one eats herring with sponge cake. Its got to do with images in one’s mind and not with the taste.
Here is another example; at what point does a raisin Challah become a fruit loaf?
Rav Yisroel Belsky and Rav Hershel Schachter, with this in mind, have declared that there is no such thing as a “Mezonos Roll”
The Gemara, Brochos 42a, describes Pas Haba BeKisnin and defines its status as a “corrupted bread” and its Beracha is therefore relegated from HaMotzi to Borei Minei Mezonos. The Rishonim (early Talmudic commentators) debate the qualifying guidelines of this conversion. Clearly, Pas means bread; Haba BeKisnin means, according to RaMBaM, it has “pockets” that are filled with fruit, meat, vegetables etc. This is not the bread we eat at a meal. This is eaten as a snack, Talmudic “fast food”.
But people are innovative and their recipes for snack foods are recorded in the Halachic authorities who needed to provide rulings regarding what Beracha ought to be made for these new-fangled foods. Rav Hai Gaon explains that even a regular bread dough, when baked into a crispy wafer type cracker, is no longer the bread that we eat at our meals, and is Mezonos.
Rabbenu Chananel describes a bread that is a fruit loaf, or a vegetable loaf or a cake; i.e. it has “other” foods added to the dough itself.
Rav Yosef Caro ruled in his Shulchan Oruch (OH. 168) that we follow all three opinions; crackers, cake and pies are all Mezonos.
How much spice or flavour flips bread into cake? Rav Yosef Caro explains that just the slightest hint is enough, it is no longer a bread that would be comfortably served at the meal.
The Rama (Rav Moshe Isserles) presumably lived at a time when sweet Challah was already a common and accepted bread. He therefore rules that unless the added flavours are the Ikkar, the focus of the bread, it will remain HaMotzi.
A Mezonos Roll tastes pretty much like bread and for some it is indistinguishable other than for the Kosher certifier’s assurance that it is indeed Mezonos. Tuna is not eaten with marble cake, but we have little problem eating tuna with a Mezonos Roll.
Since cake is really just corrupted bread, if one takes the unusual step of using it as one uses bread, meaning as the core of a meal, then it is to be treated just like bread. One must wash hands before eating, and say all the Berachot one says for bread.
This explains why we make HaMotzi on our Matza, which is really Pas Haba BeKisnin, it is a dry wafer water cracker. All year round we make Mezonot on such crackers, why should this night be different to all other nights of the year?
Sephardic Jews recite Mezonos on Matza (well, at least those who eat hard Matza during Pesach) but during Pesach recite HaMotzi, since it is consumed as bread for those days.
Ashkenazim seem to have adopted a consistent approach in order to avoid confusion, and treat Matzah as bread all year round.
Ritual washing of ones hands for eating a bread meal is required only if a minimum amount of bread is eaten. However, because bread is seen as the staple of the meal, the entire meal is used to make this calculation. Therefore when eating a substantial meal with crackers, one must wash and make HaMotzi and conclude with Birkas HaMazon. However, the Beracha for washingones hands is made only if a Beitza is consumed. And if one eats less than Kezayis of cracker, one need not wash and presumably Mezonos shold be said since such a small amount cannot be deemed central to the meal.
By the way, if in error one makes Mezonos on bread or HaMotzi on cake, there is no need to make another Beracha. Mezonos encompasses all foods, all Mazon, and HaMotzi Lechem applies also to the corrupted forms of bread. It is therefore argued that one need not and indeed one should not make Mezonos on cake and biscuits that are served for dessert, as they are already included in the Beracha HaMotzi made at the start of the meal.
The Shulchan Aruch (168:17) establishes the Berachah for Pashtida, pies filled with meat, fish or cheese, as HaMotzi. The Magen Avrohom simply explains that these are meal foods not snack foods. Regarding Pizza, it may well depend on the way in which this particular eating session is defined; is it a snack or a meal? One must also keep in mind that it appears that our sense of formal eating is today vastly different than it was in the past. The Gemara makes most degrading comments about those who eat in public, and yet today, it is quite normal for presidents and kings to snack in public, especially if they are looking for votes and want to look like the ordinary guy in the street.
How is an open topped grilled sandwich different to a Pizza? Why might the Pizza be Mezonos but the sandwich could only be HaMotzi? The answer is that once bread is identified as bread, it does not lose that status very easily.
Now some clever scholars have some bad news for us. Many Pizzas are not prepared from fresh dough but from pre-baked pizza bases. These bases are already suitable for eating before they become a Pizza. Does this make them the same as an open topped grilled sandwich? Some say YES and some say NO. It is probably not HaMotzi because these bases are prepared for one specific purpose, to be used a Pizzas.
So, when travelling make sure that you have opportunity to wash. It is preferred that one not wash in a toilet-bathroom, and if there is no alternative, dryingones hands anf the Beracha should be made outside the bathroom