By: Rabbi Ari Enkin
A few weeks ago I posted an article against the use of “mezonot rolls” as a substitute for regular bread in order to bypass the requirements of netilat yadayim and birkat hamazon (available here: https://www.torahmusings.com/2010/12/mezonot-rolls). Following that post there were those who requested an article in defense of mezonot rolls in order to understand the halachic principles upon which those who make use of them rely.
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 the Mechaber, as long as the sweetness of the dough is merely discernable it is sufficient to render the product a “mezonot” item. According to the Rema and most other Ashkenazi authorities, however, the sweet taste has to be the most dominant feature of the product.
The opinion the Mechaber is unequivocal. Therefore, with the exception of the issue of “keviat seuda” which will be discussed below, Sefardim and others who follow the rulings of the Mechaber are certainly entitled to enjoy the convenience that mezonot rolls have to offer. It is unclear, however, upon exactly what basis Ashkenazim who use mezonot rolls rely.
There are those who interpret the ruling of the Rema in a manner which would allow bread to be declared “mezonot” as long as the liquid component of the dough consists of more fruit juice than water. This is true even if one does not taste the fruit juice in the dough. Although there are a number of difficulties with this interpretation we will ignore them at this time in order to maintain the “defense” nature of this paper. Additionally, other softeners and sweeteners which are added to the dough such as eggs, sugar, milk, and oil are treated like fruit juice for this purpose. Therefore, if the dough contains more of such ingredients than it does water, the blessing to be recited upon the bread is “mezonot” according to this view.
There is also an opinion among Ashkenazi authorities that as long as the bread contains a significant amount of fruit juice or at least has a slightly different appearance than regular bread due to the fruit juice and other sweetener content, then it may be declared mezonot. Of course, there is always the option of arbitrarily choosing to follow the Mechaber’s view in this matter even though an Ashkenazi probably shouldn’t. Rabbi Yosef Karo is, after all, a big enough halachic authority upon whom to rely. Therefore, Ashkenazim who treat the common mezonot roll as a mezonot product have chosen to rely upon one or more of the lenient considerations discussed above.
There is, however, another issue which must be dealt with before mezonot rolls can be comfortably consumed, and that is the issue of “keviat seuda“, establishing a meal. According to the principles of keviat seuda, one is required to perform netilat yadayim and recite birkat hamazon when eating a quantity of mezonot items (“pat haba b’kisnin”) that one would consume if such items were in place of a meal. However, there are many different interpretations as to what is defined as “a quantity” and “a meal”.
According to the most lenient interpretation of keviat seuda, only one who eats an amount of mezonot products which is equal to the quantity of bread one would eat at a normal meal is required to perform netilat yadayim and recite birkat hamazon. Eating an amount of mezonot products less than this will allow for one to simply recite “mezonot” and “al hamichya” according to this approach. Such conduct is even better justified if the mezonot products are not eaten together with any meal-type foods. Therefore, one who is served an airline meal which contains a mezonot roll should eat the mezonot roll separately, with its own bracha rishona and achrona, and only then proceed to eat the other foods which are served along with it.
Eating mezonot rolls together with meal-type foods is slightly more complicated due to the principles of keviat seuda, the details of which are beyond the scope of this paper. With regards to the common mezonot roll sandwich, the mezonot roll is already packaged and served with the “meal-type” food, as a sandwich should be. Removing these items (tuna, egg, salami?) in order to eat them separately from the roll as advised above is usually impractical and unappetizing. Therefore, it is preferable for one who is going to eat a mezonot roll sandwich (or pizza for that matter) to eat less than the total quantity of food that is normally consumed at a meal in order to better justify reciting “mezonot” on such sandwiches. However, according to the lenient interpretation of keviat seuda cited above, as long as one eats less than the total quantity of bread that is normally consumed at a meal, there will still be some justification for the use of mezonot rolls along with other foods as a bread substitute.
The above is intended to serve as a “limud zechut” only. It remains the opinion of this writer that Ashkenazim should always consider mezonot rolls to be like any other bread requiring netilat yadayim, hamotzi, and birkat hamazon, regardless of any other considerations.
 OC 168:7
 Rema, OC 168:7.
 Daat Torah 168:7, Shulchan Aruch Harav, OC 168:7.
 See Shevet Halevi 8:32, 9:44 for more on this.
 Mishna Berura 168:94
 Aruch Hashulchan, OC 168:22,24,25
 Aruch Hashulchan, OC 168:17; Shulchan Aruch Harav, OC 168:8; Kaf Hachaim, OC 168:47; Igrot Moshe, OC 3:32;Yabia Omer 8:22:21. For more on this see Vezot Habracha p. 28-36 and p. 219-226.
 Mishna Berura 168:24. See also Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 54 note 132 and Vezot Habracha p. 32.
 Az Nidberu 5:33; Mishneh Halachot 7:26.
 Shevet Halevi 8:32.