29 Nov HAMOTZEI VS MEZONOS
The halachos regarding whether a product is a mezonos or hamotzei is complicated. However, one can become knowledgeable in this critical and common area by learning the Shulchan Aruch (with poskim) until the halachos are crystal clear.
In this issue we will clarify which beracha to make on bread and dough products.
The Beracha on Matzah
There are three definitions advanced regarding “pas haba b’kisnin” food which is not bread but in the bread family, and one who is kove’ah seuda on these foods, must wash and bentch. The third definition has the most relevance to what we will be discussing in this issue. Therefore, we will discuss only that definition.
The opinion of Rav Hai Goan in the name of the Aruch is that pas haba b’kisnin is a dough that has been baked in a manner which becomes very hard. Crackers, bread sticks and flat breads fall into this category. Although they are made from the same ingredients as bread, due to their appearance and texture they are not eaten as bread during a meal, and thus the beracha is mezonos.
According to Rav Hai Goan matzah is pas haba b’kisnin since it is crispy, and therefore the correct beracha would be a mezonos. The custom among Sefardim is indeed to recite a mezonos on matzah all year round with the exception of Pesach. The reason why matzah is a hamotzei on Pesach according to the Sefardim is because during Pesach everyone considers matzah as bread. The custom among the Ashkenazim is to recite a hamotzei on matzah all year round. The reason is because maztah is used year-round for a meal, and not considered a snack item. Some Sefardim have a custom to recite hamotzei on matzah all year. Some poskim say the reason why the custom of Ashkenazim is to recite hamotzei on matzah is because matzah is not what Rav Hai Goan said pas haba b’kisnin is classified as.
The question arises according to the opinion of the Sefardim as to which beracha to make on leftover matzah after Pesach. Many poskim maintain that the beracha is indeed a mezonos, while others say since this matzah was a hamotzei during Yom Tov the din of hamotzei remains on them as long as those matzahs remain. On Motzei Pesach if one is kove’ah seuda on matzah, even a Sefardi would recite a hamotzei on the matzah. The Gr’a did not eat matzah all year (except for Pesach) because he was unsure of the correct beracha to recite on matzah.
Some say matzah crackers one does not have a meal from them; therefore, the beracha would be a mezonos.
A pretzel is a baked snack that is twisted into a unique knot-like shape. A pretzel is regular bread dough. Since they are hard and not eaten as a meal according to Rav Hai Goan the beracha is mezonos.
Soft pretzels are made from bread dough and the beracha should therefore be hamotzei. Therefore one who wants to eat this pretzel must wash and bentch. If the pretzel tastes like cake then a mezonos would be made, but such pretzels are not manufactured.
The beracha for this pita is hamotzei since it is regular bread.
Toast is regular bread put into a toaster. Once bread attained the status of bread, the bread cannot be transformed into a cracker by toasting it. Therefore, the beracha is hamotzei.
Melba toast is a very dry, crisp, thinly toasted piece of bread. Melba toast is made by lightly toasting bread in a normal manner. Once the outside of the bread is slightly firm, it is removed from the toaster and then each slice is cut in half longitudinally with a knife to make two slices, each half the thickness of the original. These two slices are then toasted again to make Melba toast. As one can see, this product is 100% bread. Therefore, the beracha is hamotzei and not mezonos.
Bagel chips are made from long loaves of bagel dough that are extruded and cut into uniformly sized bagel chips that are seasoned, baked and toasted. These companies manufacture this product as a snack food. Accordingly, some poskim are of the opinion that the beracha is a mezonos. However, as a matter of halacha l’maseh the beracha on this product is hamotzei, since the intent of the company does not play a role in deciding which beracha should be made on a specific food. If they would be made with leftover bagels then all would agree they are hamotzei.
A piece of dough which is boiled and then baked requires hamotzei. This is the process in which bagels are made. Therefore, the beracha for a bagel is hamotzei.
Kneidlach- Matzah Balls
If one takes pieces of bread which are a k’zayis (each piece individually) and cooks them, the beracha remains hamotzei. If the individual pieces are less than a k’zayis, even if they retain the appearance of the bread the beracha is mezonos. If the bread pieces are not cooked, but are rather stuck together with honey or soup, and the conglomerate is a k’zayis the beracha is hamotzei. This is true even if it does not have the appearance of bread (appearance of bread means it has to look like a baked item as opposed to a different way of making the food). If it is not a k’zayis then it is only hamotzei if the conglomerate retains the appearance of bread, otherwise it is mezonos. If one was kove’ah seuda on the above mezonos items that are less than a k’zayis no washing or benching would be required because there is no appearance of bread.
The beracha on kneidlach when one uses matzah meal, a little amount of water, and cooks it, is mezonos. If something is less than a k’zayis but cooked even with an appearance of bread it is mezonos because it is a dish not a bread product. Some say it may be soaked as well. In order for the bread to be considered cooked it has to either be placed in a utensil on the fire and hot anywhere form 113-175 degrees or in a utensil which was just removed from the fire after cooking. Placing food in a kli sheini does not render the bread a cooked item. Pouring from a kli rishon does not cook the food either. Some were careful to make the kneidlach less than a k’zayis in size to avoid questions of the beracha since if it is less than a k’zayis it would be mezonos even if it looked like bread.
There is a discussion in the poskim if frying is considered cooking. Relevant to us is if bread is fried in a pan. All would agree that if one merely placed enough oil in the pan so that the bread should not burn, the food is not considered tigun (fried) or bishul (cooked) and the beracha is hamotzei. The uncertainty is when the amount of oil used is more than is needed to prevent burning but less than deep fried. Bread which is deep fried (this means the entire food is covered with oil) definitely has the status of being cooked, and the beracha would be mezonos, if it is less than a k’zayis. The ramifications of this halacha will be discussed below as they apply to French toast, matzei brei, and to croutons.
One who wants to change the status of bread from hamotzei to mezonos should cook the bread in water for about a minute and then prepare the dish the way he would like.
French toast is generally made with bread, eggs, and some milk which is fried in a frying pan. If one uses pieces of bread which are larger than a k’zayis then the beracha is hamotzei since when frying pieces of bread larger than a k’zayis the appearance of bread does not change, and the beracha is hamotzei. One who makes French toast by using pieces of bread less than a k’zayis would recite a mezonos on it.
There are many different ways of making challah kugel. The challah is usually broken into pieces and soaked in water. If the pieces are larger than a k’zayis the beracha is hamotzei. If the pieces are less than a k’zayis the beracha is mezonos since it looses its appearance of bread. However, usually the challah kugel is baked afterwards which would be problematic because this baking may turn it into a bread item. If the challah kugel is made with little flavoring other than the bread and water one should recite a hamotzei. However, most challah gels are made to taste very sweet made with raisins, eggs etc. Therefore, in this situation the beracha would be a mezonos even if the challah kugel is placed in the oven after the initial soaking.
Some say that the challah or (matzah look below) should be soaked for a half-hour in order for it to loose the appearance of bread (if it is less than a k’zayis and not cooked).
Matzah brie is made by breaking up matzah into small pieces and soaking the matzah in eggs. After the matzah is soaked one fries it in a frying pan with oil which is just enough to prevent burning. If the pieces are larger than a k’zayis the beracha is undoubtedly hamotzei. If the pieces are smaller than a
k’zayis the beracha is questionable. Therefore, one should wash on real bread prior to eating this food. If one deep fries the matzoh brie and the pieces are smaller than a k’zayis, a mezonos is recited on it.
The bnei Sefard who year-round recite a mezonos on matzah, would recite a mezonos on maztah brei regardless on how it is made.
There are many different types of croutons sold on the market. The yellow Osem® croutons are not pieces of bread and are deep fried, their beracha is mezonos.
If a piece of bread less than a k’zayis is deep fried it is mezonos even if it retains its appearance of bread. If it would be baked or fried, but not immersed in oil it remains hamotzei. There are two types of croutons made from small square pieces of bread that are manufactured. The flavored types of croutons (white or dark) are made from very small pieces of bread and are generally deep fried. The beracha for these are mezonos. The larger ones (but still less than a k’zayis) are baked. Accordingly, the beracha is hamotzei. If croutons were fried in oil but not enough to consider them deep fried then one should wash and bentch and then he may eat these croutons without a problem.
If one would take croutons (or any piece of bread) that are less than a k’zayis and place them in a kli rishon for enough time that it looses its bread appearance the beracha would be mezonos. Placing them in a kli sheini would not help. However, if one soaks them in a kli sheini for a minute or two then a mezonos may be made on them since they are less than a k’zayis. One who places the larger kind of croutons in a salad would recite a hamotzei on them. Many people make mezonos on the large croutons even when placed in salad, and this is not correct.
There is an opinion in the poskim which says that if one has intention for the product to be pas haba b’kisnin, when making the dough and bread, the beracha is a mezonos. According to this opinion, some want to say if croutons are not made from standard bread, but from dough specifically for this product, then the beracha would be a mezonos. However, this is not to be relied upon for halacha l’maseh.
Bread crumbs and matzah meal are made by crumbling bread into tiny pieces. It would seem that the beracha on this should be hamotzei because it is bread (or matzah). However, in most cases the beracha would be mezonos as will be explained. One reason is because the pieces are less than a k’zayis, and it is placed with a liquid when fried, and it looses its appearance of bread, which changes its status from hamotzei to mezonos. Furthermore, bread crumbs are usually used to fry fish or chicken cutlets and the bread crumbs are deep fried even though the oil used is not enough to consider the chicken cutlets deep fried. Some say the reason is because in any dish it is placed in, and the bread crumbs are butel.
One who has thick dough and cooks or fries it recites a mezonos on it even if it looks like bread since the beracha only goes according to the time it was cooked. Others say the beracha is hamotzei. The custom is to be lenient; however, a person who fears Hashem should only eat such foods during a bread meal. Technically one may eat doughnuts even an amount of a kvias seuda but the custom is not like this. If the dough was made with ingredients like oil or honey the beracha is a mezonos.
Doughnuts are made by deep frying dough in oil. Accordingly they should only be eaten during a bread meal. However, the custom is not like this, and in fact the beracha is mezonos. Why is this so, since it seems to be against the opinion of the poskim. The reasons are the following: There is an opinion in the poskim who maintains if it is deep fried it is considered as if the dough is made with oil and not flour and water. Furthermore, the dough is made with sweet ingredients, and not made with only flour and water. Some say since one is not kove’ah seuda on such items the beracha is mezonos. This applies to doughnuts without a filling. Doughnuts with a filling will be discusses at a different time.
One should still avoid eating doughnuts to the amount that one is kove’ah seuda on.
Some say one who wants to eat a doughnut in middle of a meal does not require its own beracha and is exempt with the beracha on the bread in the beginning of the meal. Others say one should have in mind at the beginning of the meal when he washes to exempt the doughnuts from a beracha.
A dough that is cooked (not baked) and the finished product does not have an appearance pf bread is mezonos according to all opinions. Many people make lokshon kugel by putting noodles with eggs and other ingredients and then bake it in an oven. Some say this may be considered a food that has an appearance of bread since it is baked and therefore, if one would eat an amount of kvias seuda he would have to wash and bentch. The minhag however is to be lenient, and most poskim hold even in this situation it is not considered a bread product and the beracha is a mezonos. Some say for this reason lokshon kugel is given out by a kiddush (as opposed to cake) is in order for one to be able to eat a lot of kugel without running into a problem of kvias seuda. Couscous and farfel are considered non-bread products and the beracha on them is mezonos even if one eats it as a meal.
Based on the above paragraph one may recite a mezonos on spaghetti, macaroni and noodles since they do not have a bread appearance. One may recite a mezonos on baked ziti even though it is baked after the noodles are cooked. The reason is because the baking is done for a small period of time in order to melt the cheese. Therefore, it is not considered a baked item.
The beracha on lasagna is questionable since lasagna is wide pieces of dehydrated dough. The noodles are cooked and then the sauce and cheese is baked in an oven altogether. The Shulchan Aruch says the beracha for such a food is hamotzei. Lasagna is not comparable to regular noodles which are thin and not as tough. It would make sense that if the lasagna has a dry look to it then one should wash beforehand, and if the lasagna has a wet look to it then a mezonos is made, since it may not look like bread. Most lasagna today have a wet consistency and therefore a mezonos is required.
Kreplach are dough pockets containing meat inside which are cooked. One recites a mezonos on this food.
A thick batter that has been poured into a mold causing the finished product to be thick would be hamotzei. If the batter was poured onto a flat surface and spread out completely and it becomes very thin, the beracha would be a mezonos.
The wrapper of many blintzes are made from a thin batter which is spread out in the frying pan. Based on this, the poskim say that a blintz is a mezonos because it is very thin and does not have an appearance of bread. Even if one eats the amount of a seuda he would not be required to wash or bentch. If the wrapper was fried and is very thick then the beracha would be hamotzei, but this is usually not the case.
Pancakes are made in a frying pan and they are thicker than blintzes. If one places enough oil only that they should not burn, the beracha would be hamotzei, if one eats the amount of a seuda. Others say even if one is kove’ah seuda on pancakes they are mezonos. Pancakes that are deep fried are not subject to the above halacha and a mezonos will always be required. A thin pancake would have the same halachos as a blintz mentioned above.
Some say waffles should be considered like blintzes because they are thin. However, today this is not the case as our waffles are thick, but since they do not have an appearance of bread even if one eats the shiur of a seuda one would recite a mezonos.
It has become very common for one to eat a wrap with tuna etc. A wrap is made with bread ingredients but is very flat. If the wrap has a very chewy consistency and can’t be eaten alone, then the beracha is mezonos. If the wrap looks like bread and can be eaten alone then hamotzei is recited. Most wraps today fall into the latter category and the correct beracha is hamotzei. One should not assume the beracha is mezonos because in fact it may not be.