Pas Habah B’Kisnin: Pas or Pas Nisht

Spring 2005 | Updated August 2013

…Sora spent the whole morning shopping and was ready to stop for lunch. She was in luck. The kosher pizza shop was down the block from the mall. Since she was watching her weight she did not want to indulge, so she ordered one slice, salad and a diet soda. As she carried her order to her seat, she was faced with a dilemma: which brocha (blessing) should she make – mezonos or hamotzi?

…It was a beautiful wedding with a magnificent stand up smorgasbord. Naturally, the guests lined the carving tables to indulge in delicious corned beef. The glatt kosher caterer ordered mezonos rolls for the occasion. Are the mezonos rolls really mezonos or are they hamotzi rolls in disguise?

…Naftali was taking the Red Eye Express to New York. Boruch Hashem the airline had his kosher meal as ordered, complete with a challah roll stamped “mezonos” on the cellophane. Can Naftali dig right in, or does he have to wait for the stewardess to clear the aisle so he can go to the galley to wash?

The term “mezonos roll” is one of the great kashrus oxymorons. If the roll is indeed bread, how can the brocha (blessing) for the “roll” be mezonos, a brocha designated for cake or cookies? If the brocha for this look-alike roll is indeed mezonos, how can the brocha on a product that looks like bread and tastes like bread not be hamotzi?

As we will see from this article, the mezonos roll is indeed a misnomer. However, the halacha in Orach Chaim 168:7 makes allowances for certain specialty baked goods that mirror regular bread in either substance or texture but differ from regular bread significantly enough to downgrade the brocha from hamotzi to mezonos. These specialty breads are halachically termed pas habah b’kisnin – literally, pocket bread.

Note: Pas habah b’kisnin should not be confused with pita bread that is bread with a pocket, full-fledged bread, on which one recites hamotzi.

Determining the Criteria

What qualifies as pas habah b’kisnin? Our Rabbis posit four approaches to define pas habah b’kisnin:

  1. The Tur, Rach, Aruch, and the Rashba say that pas habah b’kisnin is bread dough that is filled with honey, nuts, sweets and spices.
  2. According to the Rambam and the Bais Yosef the dough, itself, is distinctively sweet or fruity. The dough should taste more markedly cake-like than bread-like.
  3. The Bach embellishes the Rambam’s/Bais Yosef position thusly: the eggs, honey, and other sweet or spicy ingredients should not only give the dough a distinctly sweet or spicy taste but these ingredients should be a major ingredient component of the recipe as well.1
  4. Rav Hei Gaon‘s approach to pas habah b’kisnin is as follows: The bread dough, either bland or spiced, is baked into a crisp hard cracker-like texture. Some examples of this approach are flatbread, bread sticks, and pretzels.2

The halacha combines and follows all four opinions. One would recite boreh minei mezonos on products fulfilling any one of the above criteria.3

The Fundamental Principle

Is there a fundamental principle and/or common criteria that unify all halachic illustrations of pas habah b’kisnin? Yes, there is. The fundamental principle determining whether a product is deemed bread or pas habah b’kisnin is predicated on the intention of the producer when the product is baked or manufactured.4 If the manufacturer or baker intended to bake bread, a product to be eaten as a meal, that item is considered full-fledged bread. Even if that product is subsequently formulated into an item with pas habah b’kisnin properties, that cracker-like product is still halachically considered to be bread and the brocha will be hamotzi. Conversely, if the intention of the manufacturer is to create a snack product, that product is considered to be pas habah b’kisnin.

Melba toast is a classic example of bread that is subsequently toasted. Melba toast was named after Dame Nellie Melba, who wanted a low fat alternative to bread so that she could watch her weight. The baker’s intention when making the Melba toast was to create an alternative to bread. Even though Melba toast resembles Rav Hei Gaon’s criteria of pas habah b’kisnin, the brocha on Melba toast is hamotzi. Conversely, frozen pizza boards that are par-baked and edible are manufactured with the intention of being further processed into pizza, a product that is a snack food, a pas habah b’kisnin upon which one recites boreh minei mezonos.

Bagel Chips: One of the most elusive pas habah b’kisnin bakery products is the bagel chip. Bagel chips can theoretically be made in many fashions: baked, toasted, fried, manufactured commercially, or made locally on a small scale in a local bakery. Commercially produced bagel chips, according to the bagel chip companies researched, do not take fresh bagels and slice and toast them into bagel chips. In order to get a uniform bagel chip product, commercial bagel chips have fairly stringent quality control baking criteria: size, thickness and texture. To this end, commercial 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 commercial bagel chips are manufactured as a snack food and so, the brocha would also be borei minei mezonos.

How does a commercial bagel chip differ from one that was made in the local bakery? Commercial bagel chips do have a bagel look and texture, yet many of them do not have a hole! Furthermore, they are all uniform in size and thickness. Bagel chips fitting these criteria would be pas habah b’kisnin. On the other hand, bagel chips made from leftover bagels, which were originally intended to be eaten as a meal, would be similar to Melba toast and the brocha on these bagel chips are hamotzi. If the baker has no specific intention, he or she often bakes bagels knowing that some of them will eventually be converted into bagel chips. Those bagel chips would be pas habah b’kisnin.

Frying creates a completely different halachic ruling with all bread products. Any fried bread product – croutons, pita chips, bagel chips and the like – may warrant a borei minei mezonos because frying nullifies the bread status of a bread product less than a kizayis. Boiling a flour-based product such as pasta always creates the borei minei mezonos status because it is not bread and does not have the texture of bread.

Putting the Consumer Into the Picture

Nevertheless, as with every general rule there are exceptions. Pas habah b’kisnin products are no different. There are two very common occurrences when a pas habah b’kisnin product can be and is elevated to bread status.

When One is Koveah Seuda
1) When one eats a full dinner meal, consisting of pas habah b’kisnin, or 2) If one uses pas habah b’kisnin to augment other side dishes, the brocha one makes on that pas habah b’kisnin is hamotzi when a full meal is eaten. Why? In these cases when one eats the pas habah b’kisnin as one would eat bread, the pas habah b’kisnin has been elevated to bread-like status. Hence the brocha would be hamotzi in these circumstances. In all instances of exclusive pas habah b’kisnin consumption, the amount that an average person consumes for a dinner meal determines how much pas habah b’kisnin constitutes a full meal.5 When the pas habah b’kisnin augments the meal, such as cake or a pas habah b’kisnin roll with an airline meal, even if the pas habah b’kisnin roll or cake tasted like cake, once one eats this cake or roll with a meal it fulfills a bread-like criteria and one would have to wash and make hamotzi on the cake or mezonos roll.

Pizza: Pizza is a classic example of flexible pas habah b’kisnin whose pas habah b’kisnin changes with the amount the average consumer eats.

Pizza as a Meal:
Our Kashrus Kurrents pizza poll of current consumer eating habits indicates that the average person consumes one slice of an 18″ pizza (alone, without any sides) as a snack and three slices of an 18″ pizza (alone, without any sides) as a meal. Two slices of an 18″ pizza (alone, without any sides) was questionable. Most pizza shops were in agreement that the average consumer orders 2 slices of pizza with a side dish for dinner. Similarly, one slice of square pan Sicilian pizza eaten alone as a meal is questionable, since the average consumer orders the one slice together with side dishes for dinner. Therefore, in order to avoid a questionable circumstance, 2 slices of 18″ pizza or one slice of Sicilian pizza should not be ordered alone. Our data showed some other eating habits of the average consumer. They include consuming 1/2 of a 14″ thin crust pie, 1/2 of a 12″ regular crust pie, 1/2 of a 9″ deep dish pizza, or a complete 9″ or 10″ pie for dinner.6

Specialty Breads: All specialty “flat bread” varieties, such as flat breads, lavash, wasa bread or cracker bread are baked for snacking; the brocha is borei minei mezonos. If the flat breads augment a dinner meal, the brocha would be elevated to hamotzi.

We hope that this article has given the kosher consumer a clearer understanding about the halachic ramifications of pas habah b’kisnin, so that the next time he or she decides to go out to dinner, pizza and fries will be approached with a new and healthy reverence – and, the correct brocha.

1. Be’er Heitev O.C. 168 No. 12. According to this opinion, the pas habah b’kisnin is comparable to cake that is eaten at the end of a meal.

2. According to this opinion pas habah b’kisnin means food that one chews.

3. Be’er Heitev Ibid No. 10

4. Be’er Heitev Ibid No. 11

5. See Be’er Halacha Ibid No. 6. It seems clear that an elderly person or a young child who eats smaller portions would have to wash and bentch on the amount that they normally eat because their age group is satiated with a smaller amount.

6. For other scenarios and halachic issues regarding pizza see here.