12. Non-Hamotzee Bread
Altering the state of bread can sometimes "downgrade" the bracha from Hamotzee to Mezonot.
In the previous class we learned about the bracha Hamotzee, and when it applies to Pat Haba'ah B'Kisnin – pastries and the like that resemble bread. Today we will discuss situations when bread loses its regular bracha of Hamotzee.
The bracha on bread is Hamotzee. This is true whether you're eating an entire loaf of bread, or even a tiny piece of bread the size of a crumb. The bracha does not change based on the size of the bread being eaten.1
Although Hamotzee is said on any piece of bread no matter what the size, this is only true when the bread remains in its original form. Sometimes, altering the state of bread can reduce its special, elevated status, causing the bracha to "downgrade" from Hamotzee to Mezonot.
There are two main instances where the bracha on bread is Mezonot:
- when small pieces of bread are mixed with other ingredients, to the point that they are no longer recognizable as bread
- when small pieces of bread are cooked
We will now explain these two situations and their parameters.
No Longer Recognizable
Let's learn a new Hebrew term that comes up a lot in the laws of brachot: kezayit. This literally means "like an olive" – i.e. the volume of a Talmudic olive, which is approximately 30 cc or one liquid ounce. About half of a middle piece of rye bread constitutes a kezayit.2
When bread is 1) broken into pieces smaller than a kezayit, and 2) mixed with other ingredients,3 if the pieces are no longer recognizable as bread. Generally, the bread loses its taste from being immersed in the other ingredients, and the bracha becomes Mezonot.4
This is true even if the small pieces of "bread" are subsequently joined together and made into one food that is larger than a kezayit.5 For example:
- an exotic dessert consisting of blenderized bread, mixed with apple juice and brown sugar, and stuck together into squares covered in chocolate
- turkey stuffing, which is made from bread that is broken up, mixed with other ingredients, and then baked
If pieces of bread smaller than a kezayit are cooked (or deep-fried, which is the equivalent of cooking),6 the result is no longer considered bread and the bracha will be Mezonot.7 This is true even if the cooked pieces of bread are still recognizable as bread. The very fact that they are cooked is what affects the change in their status. Furthermore, even if the broken pieces of bread are joined back together and amount to a kezayit, the bracha is still Mezonot.8
A perfect example is matzah balls (kneidelach). These are made by rolling matzah meal into balls and then cooking them. The bracha is Mezonot.9
Even as a Meal
In both of the above cases where altering bread changes its bracha to Mezonot, the new product is not even considered Pat Haba'ah B'Kisnin. Therefore, even when eaten in large quantities or as a meal, the bracha is still Mezonot, and never Hamotzee.10
Large Pieces of Bread
Cooking bread or changing its appearance by mixing it with other ingredients only affects its bracha when the pieces are smaller than a kezayit. Pieces of bread that are larger than a kezayit are still considered bread even after being cooked or altered. Their bracha remains Hamotzee.11
It is only cooking a bread that changes its status, but not baking. If bread or matzah is ground up into small pieces, made into dough and baked, it gets the regular rules of food made from flour:
- If it is bread, the bracha is Hamotzee.12
- If it is cake – i.e. the ingredients other than water are of greater volume than the water being added, resulting in a sweet dough13 – the bracha is Mezonot. An example of this is bread kugel: after the bread is soaked in water and broken into pieces, various ingredients like eggs and sugar are added. Thus, it resembles more of a cake, and the bracha is Mezonot. (Note that it is actually the fact that the bread was crumbled into pieces smaller than a kezayit and soaked that causes it to lose its status as bread, as discussed above. The subsequent re-baking does not alter this.)
Is frying considered like cooking or baking? We can identify three types of frying:
1) Deep-frying. When a food is completely immersed in oil, it is considered as being "cooked," and the bracha is Mezonot.14 Classic examples are donuts and egg rolls. In this case, even if you'd eat a meals' worth (Kiday Seudah), the bracha would still be Mezonot, as with all cooked grain foods (like pasta).
2) Light frying: Food that is prepared in a frying pan with a minimal amount of oil (just enough to prevent burning), it is considered "baked," and the bracha is Hamotzee.15 A good example is French toast: If it is made with large pieces, the bracha is Hamotzee; if it is made with pieces smaller than a kezayit, the bracha is Mezonot, due to the added sugar, oil and eggs.
3) In-between case: When enough oil is used to affect the taste or color of the food,16 but not enough to deep-fry, it is unclear if such a procedure is considered cooking or baking. Therefore, when pieces of bread smaller than a kezayit are fried, it is unclear whether their bracha remains Hamotzee or if it becomes Mezonot. It is therefore recommended to eat such foods only in the course of a bread meal, since Hamotzee on actual bread certainly covers the fried bread-pieces.17
Wrap-Up and Review
At this point in the course, we have concluded the basic rules of Mezonot and Hamotzee. Before moving on, let's quickly review the principles that we've studied in the last four classes.
Class #9: Introduction to Mezonot
Mezonot is said on products of wheat, barley, spelt, oats, rye, and rice.
The bracha on these products is Mezonot, when they are made into a satiating dish.
The bracha on raw flour (e.g. cake batter) is Shehakol.
Class #10: Three Mezonot Categories
There are three categories of baked goods:
- Bread – the bracha is always Hamotzee.
- Pat Haba'ah B'Kisnin – grain foods that resemble bread (e.g. cake, crackers). The bracha on these is Mezonot when eaten as a snack, and Hamotzee when eaten as a meal.
- Grain foods that don't resemble bread (e.g. pasta, oatmeal) – the bracha is always Mezonot.
Class #11: The Mezonot Meal
- There are two opinions concerning what constitutes a "meal" that would require Hamotzee on Pat Haba'ah B'Kisnin (cake, crackers, etc.):
- the volume of 4 eggs
- the amount of bread eaten as a meal (or amount of bread eaten with other foods at a meal)
Most products made from cooked or deep-fried dough are Mezonot. There are some exceptions.
After saying Mezonot on Pat Haba'ah B'Kisnin, and you then decide to have a meal's worth, you would say a new bracha of Hamotzee only if a meals-worth remains.
Class #12: Non-Hamotzee Bread
When small pieces of bread (less than a kezayit) are either mixed with other ingredients or cooked, the bracha is no longer Hamotzee.
These altered bread-pieces are Mezonot even when eaten as a meal.
Deep-frying is the equivalent of cooking. Pan-frying with a minimal amount of oil is considered baking. Pan-frying with a medium amount of oil is unclear.
This concludes class #12 on Hilchot Brachot. In the coming lessons we'll learn about things that require a bracha even when consumed during the course of a bread meal.
- Orach Chaim 168:10, 210:1. When eating less than a k’beitza (approximately one slice) of bread, you should wash your hands, but without saying the blessing Netilat Yadayim; then say Hamotzee (Orach Chaim 158:2).
- Halachos of Brochos, Addendum 2, footnote ‘d’
- Simply immersing bread in water alone does not have this effect, unless it is soaked to the point where the water begins to turn white. (OC 168:11)
- Halachos of Brochos, ch. 26 footnote 44, citing Rabbi S.Z. Auerbach
- The Laws of Brachos, pg. 264, citing Magen Avraham 168:26
- see "Frying," later in this class
- Orach Chaim 268:10
- Magen Avraham 168:26
- Mishnah Berurah 168:59
- Mishnah Berurah 168:57
- Orach Chaim 168:10
- Mishnah Berurah 168:59
- This is another reason why stuffing is Mezonot, even though it is baked and not cooked. (Halachos of Brochos, ch. 26 footnote 44, citing Rabbi S.Z. Auerbach)
- Halachos of Brochos, ch. 26, footnote 25 in the names of Rabbi S.Z. Auerbach and Rabbi Y.S. Elyashiv
- Rema – Orach Chaim 168:14