By: Rabbi Ari Enkin
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. 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! 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 b’kisnin” is borei minei mezonot. It is actually unclear, however, exactly which foods qualify as pat haba b’kisnin. Nevertheless, common custom is to accept as pat haba 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 mezonot”.
The main difference between bread dough (“hamotzi”) and cake dough (“mezonot”) is that the latter is sweeter and enjoyed far more often as a snack rather than as a meal. According to some authorities, as long as the sweetness of the dough 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.
The taste, texture, and content of mezonot rolls place them at the center of this dispute. They look like any other type of 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 its “hamotzi” status to a “mezonot” one. 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 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 b’kisnin (or otherwise eats an especially large quantity of such items) is required to perform netilat yadayim, recite hamotzi on the food(s), and recite the Birkat Hamazon at the end of such a meal. 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, but does so in combination with other meal-type foods in a quantity often consumed at a regular meal, may be required to recite hamotzi and Birkat Hamazon in such a situation, as well! As such, it is the conclusion of this writer that if it looks like bread, tastes like bread, and is used like bread, treat it as bread regardless of its level of sweetness. There is nothing to lose by treating mezonot rolls as regular bread, complete with netilat yadayim and Birkat Hamazon. In contrast, however, using a mezonot roll, which may not even truly qualify as a mezonot roll 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 that concerning 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 cheese. This is because pastries prepared in this manner are generally eaten as a meal and not as a snack. 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.
Postscript: Even those who follow the opinion that dough kneaded entirely with fruit juice automatically qualifies as “mezonot” should be aware that this refers only to 100% fruit juice. 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 these principles, including establishments with the most ultra-orthodox certification. Caveat Emptor.
 Berachot 42a.
 Beit Yosef, OC 168.
 OC 168:6.
 OC 168:7.
 Berachot 42a; OC 168:6; Mishna Berura 168:24.
 Mishna Berura 168:24.
 OC 168:17.