What Is the Brocha?

On Pesach, shaylos always come up regarding which
brochos we should recite before eating matzoh brei, matzoh meal cakes
and similar foods. The truth is that similar questions revolve around which brochos
we should recite on foods such as French toast, English muffins, kishka
and kneidlach.

Question: When I eat matzoh brei, I have been
making the brachos of mezonos and al hamichyah on it. Now someone
told me that I should wash and make hamotzi on some bread or matzoh
instead. Is this true?

Question: The chef in our yeshiva stuffs the meatloaf with
huge pieces of leftover challah. Do we need to wash netilas yadayim and
make hamotzi before eating it?

Question: I have been told that the brocha on
licorice is shehakol, even though the first ingredient listed on its
label is flour. Why is this?

In the article Pizza, Pretzels and Pastry, we discuss the unusual halachic category called pas haba’ah bekisnin, and found that crackers, pretzels, and certain pastry-type items require the brocha of mezonos before eating them and al hamichyah afterward, unless they are eaten as a meal, in which case they require netilas yadayim, hamotzi, and bensching. (Please refer to that article for details of this complicated halacha.) However, there are numerous other foods prepared with flour that are not typical bread. In order to explore which brocha one recites on these foods, we will start our discussion with items made from bread that is then cooked or fried.

FRENCH TOAST

Although the words “French toast” were unknown in the times
of Chazal, the Gemara (Brachos 37b) discusses which brocha
to recite on chavitza, a dish that contains cooked pieces of bread. The Gemara
rules that if the pieces are the size of a kezayis (the volume of an
olive – for our purposes, we will assume this to be about one fluid ounce), the
brocha before is hamotzi and it requires bensching afterward.
This is because a large piece of bread does not lose its significance even if
it is cooked or fried. However, if all of the pieces are smaller than a kezayis,
the brocha is mezonos before and al hamichyah afterward.
If some of the pieces are larger than a kezayis and others smaller, then
one recites hamotzi as long as one piece is at least the size of a kezayis
(Mishnah Berurah 168:53).

Based on this Gemara, we conclude that one must wash netilas
yadayim
and recite hamotzi before eating French toast, and bensch
afterward, since the pieces are at least a kezayis (Shulchan Aruch,
Orach Chayim
168:10).

WHICH BROCHA DOES ONE MAKE ON KNEIDLACH?

Kneidlach are made from ground matzoh that is mixed
to form a new dough and then cooked. Most poskim rule that since the
matzoh is ground into small pieces before it is cooked, the brochabrachos are
mezonos and al hamichyah even if one eats a very large amount.
Another opinion contends that if the pieces of matzoh meal are shaped into
balls larger than a kezayis before they are cooked, their brocha
is hamotzi (Magen Avraham 168:28). The accepted psak is to
make a mezonos and al hamichyah on kneidlach (Mishnah
Berurah
168:59).

This leads us to an unusual shaylah I was once asked:

YESHIVA MEATLOAF DELUXE

A yeshiva bachur once asked me whether one should
make hamotzi on the meatloaf served at his yeshiva. I thought he was
attempting to draw attention to the quality of the cuisine, but indeed, he was
asking a serious shaylah. It turned out that the cook in his yeshiva
would stuff large pieces of leftover challah into the meatloaf.

This is an unusual situation. Many people include matzoh
meal or bread crumbs in their meatloaf, but these lose their importance in the
finished product. However, Yeshiva Meatloaf Deluxe included pieces of challahfar larger than a kezayis. As we mentioned above, pieces of bread
this size do not lose their status as bread. Thus, as strange as it might seem,
one is required to wash al netilas yadayim before eating this
meatloaf, and its correct brachos are hamotzi before and bensching
afterward.

This situation was unusual for an additional reason – people
usually soak challah or bread until it falls apart before adding it to a kugel
or meatloaf. However, Yeshiva Meatloaf Deluxe calls for bread that is only
moistened before being adding to the meatloaf, but does not fall apart.

BAKING AND SAUTÉING (frying in a small amount of oil)

On Pesach, my wife makes an item she refers to as “matzoh
rolls,” which involves mixing matzoh meal together with oil and eggs, forming
“rolls” and baking them. Although they are prepared from matzoh meal, the brocha
on these items is hamotzi since the dough is subsequently baked rather
than cooked and the finished product is very much similar to a type of bread,
albeit Pesach-dik.

Similarly, if someone made matzoh rolls by sautéing the
dough in a little oil (just enough so that the dough does not burn) the
completed product should be treated as bread for all halachos (Mishnah
Berurah
168:69). Thus, a matzoh kugel made on the top of the stove
would be hamotzi, even if the pieces are smaller than a kezayis.

FRYING VS. COOKING – THE MATZOH BREI SAGA

Thus far, we have learned that one recites hamotzi on
large pieces of bread even if they were subsequently cooked or fried, and that
small pieces lose their status as bread when they are cooked. However, some poskim
contend that frying small pieces of bread does not change their status and
they still require netilas yadayim and hamotzi (Magen Avraham
168:39). According to this opinion, matzoh brei requires netilas
yadayim
, hamotzi and bensching. Other poskim disagree,
contending that fried small pieces of bread lose their status as bread just
like cooked pieces (see Mishnah Berurah 168:56). These poskim
contend that one recites mezonos and al hamichyah on matzoh
brei
unless at least one of the pieces is the size of a kezayis. The
Mishnah Berurah concludes that the halacha is uncertain, and one
should avoid this problem by eating these items within a meal. Thus, an
Ashkenazi should not eat matzoh brei without washing and making hamotzi
on a piece of matzoh first. However, if at least one of the pieces if is the
size of a kezayis, the matzoh brei requires netilas yadayim,
hamotzi and bensching.

Sefardim recite mezonos before matzoh, except on
Pesach, unless they eat more than four kebeitzim of matzoh. During
Pesach they follow the same rules that I mentioned above for Ashkenazim. During
the rest of the year, Sefardim recite mezonos before eating matzoh
brei
and al hamichyah afterward, and they need not eat it within a
meal. However, a Sefardi who ate four kebeitzim of matzoh brei
would be faced with the same concern mentioned above and should wash netilas
yadayim
and make hamotzi on some bread.

According to all opinions, deep frying small pieces of bread
or matzoh is the same as cooking, since the oil completely covers the food.
Thus, the correct brocha on deep-fried matzoh-meal latkes is mezonos
and al hamichyah (Mishnah Berurah 168:59).

CROUTONS

Commercial croutons are produced by either frying or
toasting small pieces of seasoned bread. If they are deep fried, then the brocha
is mezonos and al hamichyah. If they are fried or toasted, then
they are pas haba’ah bekisnin (requiring mezonos when eaten as a
snack and hamotzi when eaten as a meal).

Homemade croutons toasted from leftover bread are hamotzi.
Deep-fried, they are mezonos, and fried they are subject to the same shaylah
mentioned above as to whether they are hamotzi or mezonos, and
should therefore be eaten after making hamotzi on bread.

CHALLAH KUGEL

Most people make challah kugel (or matzoh kugel)
by soaking the challah or matzoh, then mixing it with other ingredients and baking
it. When the challah or matzoh disintegrates into mush before it is mixed with
the other ingredients, the resulting kugel has the halachic
status of pas haba’ah bekisninbrocha (mezonos when eaten as a
snack and hamotzi when eaten as a meal).

Sometimes the challah remains in small pieces; this is often
the case when making a matzoh kugel. When this is the case, the
resulting kugel must be treated as bread, requiring netilas yadayim
and hamotzi, as we pointed out earlier concerning baked goods. Since the
halacha here depends on some complicated halachic details, it is
better in this case to make hamotzi on a piece of matzoh or bread first.

MATZOH LASAGNA

A guest arrived at someone’s house and was served a portion
of matzoh lasagna. In this particular recipe, the matzoh was soaked, mixed with
meat and other ingredients, and then baked.

I now ask you, dear reader: Must they wash netilas
yadayim
and which brocha should they recite?

We can answer this question only after ascertaining whether
there are noticeable pieces of matzoh in the lasagna. If there are noticeable
pieces, even if they are small, the guest should wash netilas yadayim
and make hamotzi on matzoh or bread before eating the lasagna kugel.
If the matzoh all turned to mush, the lasagna should probably be treated as pas
haba’ah bekisnin
, and would require borei minei mezonos on a snack
size, but would be hamotzi and require bensching if eaten as a
meal. The exact definition of a meal for these purposes is discussed in our
article on pas haba’ah bekisnin.

PANCAKES, BLINTZES AND CREPES

These items are all made from a batter rather than dough and
then baked in a pan, form or griddle. Since they never have a bread-like
appearance, they are always mezonos and al hamichyah. This is
true even if one eats a large amount, since they are considered neither bread
nor pas haba’ah bekisnin. Thus, one can have an entire, very satiating
meal of pancakes or blintzes without washing netilas yadayim, and one
recites the brocha of al hamichyah afterward.

WAFFLES, WAFERS, ICE CREAM CONES

These items are also made from a batter, but in this case
the batter is poured into a mold or waffle iron that bakes it into its final
shape. Although these items have a slightly more bread-like appearance than
pancakes and blintzes, without the mold, these items would never have a
bread-like shape, and they do not have a tzuras hapas (bread-like
appearance) even after being baked. Therefore, they are not considered pas
haba’ah bekisnin
but rather regular mezonos. As a result, they do
not require netilas yadayim, and the brachos are mezonos
and al hamichyah even if one made a full meal out of them. Thus, one can
enjoy as many wafers as one wants and recite al hamichyah when finished
eating.

ENGLISH MUFFINS

Most English muffins have a consistency noticeably different
from regular bread, and therefore are pas haba’ah bekisnin. However, an
English muffin whose inside tastes like bread should be treated as bread.

KISHKA AND LICORICE

Although these are two very different foods, the halachic
discussion that involves them is similar.

The Gemara (Berachos 37b and 36b) discusses a
food called rihata, which was made of flour, oil and honey cooked or
stirred together in a pot until they hardened. The Gemara cites a
dispute whether the brocha is mezonos, because of the general halachic
importance of flour; or shehakol, because the main taste comes from the
honey. We rule that the brocha is mezonos because flour is usually
considered the main ingredient of a food, unless the flour is there only to
hold it together. Whenever the flour is added to provide taste, the brocha
is mezonos, even if the main taste comes from the honey.

Kishka has the same halacha as rihata.
Although the main taste comes from the other ingredients, the flour certainly
adds taste as well.

Although licorice contains a significant amount of flour,
the flour is included only to give licorice its shape, and not to add anything
to the taste or to make it more filling. Therefore, the brocha on
licorice is shehakol (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 208:2 and Mishnah
Berurah
ad loc.).

According to the Gemara (Bava Kama 30a),
someone who desires to become exemplary in his behavior should toil in understanding
the laws of brochos. By investing energy into understanding the details
of how we praise Hashem, we realize the importance of each aspect of
that praise and how we must recognize that everything we have is a gift from Hashem.
Furthermore, when reciting the proper brocha, one is acquiring the item
from Hashem in the proper way. Pas haba’ah bekisnin functions in
two different ways, sometimes as our main sustenance and most of the time as a
pleasant snack. Reciting the correct brocha focuses our understanding on
the appropriate praise for Hashem at the correct moment.