For Good Measure: Baking with Gluten-Free Blends, Whole Wheat Flour, Sourdough and at Challah Bakes

Spring 2024

[For a related article on the general laws of hafrashas challah, click here.]

Once upon a time, baking a loaf of bread was simple. Today, when gluten-free blends and processed whole wheat flour are found in many homes, that is no longer the case. Baking with sourdough starters and group baking at “challah bakes” have also become popular. The halachos involved are complex and bear examination.

Let’s begin with a review of the measurements necessary for mitzvos related to regular wheat flour.[1]

Mitzvos Involving Wheat Flour

Separating Challah (hafrashas challah) Without a Bracha – One should separate challah without a bracha when kneading a dough that contains at least 8 ⅔ cups of wheat flour (on average 2.6 lbs.).[2]

Separating Challah With a Bracha – There are differences of opinion as to how much flour is needed to recite a bracha. Some individuals do so when kneading at least 12 ¼ cups of flour (slightly more than 3 ⅔ lbs.).[3] Others only do so when kneading at least 5 lbs. of flour[4] (about 16 ½ cups of flour). When being mafrish, l’chatchila one pulls off a kezayis of dough.[5]

Birkas Hamazon – One must recite Birkas Hamazon if he eats a kezayis of bread bkedei achilas pras, meaning within a four-minute timespan.[6] A kezayis is 0.95 fl. oz. (slightly less than 1 fl. oz.) or 28 ml.[7]

Shabbos and Yom Tov – At each seudah, one should eat the volume of a k’beitza v’yoser (literally, more than an egg: 2.0 fl. oz. or 59 ml.) of challah, matzah, or any Hamotzi product.[8] If this is too difficult, one kezayis will suffice. Unless a k’beitza of bread is intended to be consumed, one should wash without a bracha.[9] Either way, at least one kezayis of a Hamotzi product must be eaten b’kedei achilas pras.

Separating Challah with Oat Flour

When using oat flour, one would use the same cup measurement as listed above by wheat flour. However, since oat flour is lighter (i.e., less dense) per cup than wheat flour,[10] if measuring by weight one would be mafrish without a bracha for 1.8 lbs. and with a bracha for 3.75 lbs.[11]

Gluten-Free Blends

Separating ChallahHafrashas challah is not performed on gluten-free blends that have no dagan content. If the gluten-free blend contains a mixture of dagan (e.g., gluten-free oat flour[12]) and other nondagan flours,[13] one counts only the content of the dagan flour in order to take challah with a bracha. Other “nondagan flours” – such as tapioca starch, buckwheat, sorghum and almond flours mixed with dagan flour – only count towards the necessary shiur to be mafrish without a bracha.

Bracha Rishona – The bracha rishona on bread that contains gluten-free flour with no dagan content is Shehakol.[14] If the blend contains dagan (e.g., oat flour), the bracha is Hamotzi (for cake it’s Mezonos) if dagan is added for taste. How does one know? If dagan is more than 25% of the entire product, it is certainly added for taste. If under 15%, it is not added for taste but rather as a binderso the “other” flours are the ikker and the bracha is Shehakol. If between 15-25%, one must ask the baker about his intent in using dagan.[15]

Birkas Hamazon and Seudas Shabbos – If there is no dagan content in the gluten-free blend, one cannot use such rolls for lechem mishneh or be yotzei Seudas Shabbos[16] and one recites Borei Nefashos. If there is at least 51% dagan, one recites Birkas Hamazon (or Al Hamichya) after consuming a kezayis of the bread (or cake) b’kedei achilas pras.[17] One can be yotzei Seudas Shabbos and use these rolls for lechem mishneh.

If dagan is less than half of the bread, one must calculate the percentage of dagan within the different flours to determine whether Birkas Hamazon is recited. If, for example, one consumes a bread that contains 35% gluten-free oat flour, 25% tapioca starch, 25% millet flour and 15% almond flour,[18] since it is only 1/3 dagan, one should eat three kezeisim of it (i.e., to reach a kezayis of oat flour) b’kedei achilas pras to fulfill his obligation of Seudas Shabbos and recite Birkas Hamazon.[19]

The above halacha illustrates thatgluten-free blends labeled Hamotzi possibly do not contain enough oat flour to properly fulfill the obligation of SeudosShabbos or to recite Birkas Hamazon.One must consult the certifying agency or rav to confirm that there is a high enough percentage of chameishes minei dagan.

Whole Wheat Flour

Bran that was never sifted out is included when calculating the amount of whole wheat flour for hafrashas challah, Birkas Hamazon, bracha achrona and Seudas Shabbos. According to standard milling protocol, the bran is sifted out to produce pristine white flour and subsequently added back to produce whole wheat flour. With respect to hafrashas challah, Machzeh Eliyahu[20] says that the bran that is removed and added back is considered a separate ingredient, so one does not count it. Teshuvos V’hanhagos, however, says one can include it.[21] Rav Moshe Heinemann shlit”a paskens that if one kneads with 5 lbs. of store-bought whole wheat flour, one can recite a bracha because it still has the minimum shiur (3 ⅔ lbs.) of white flour according to Rav Avrohom Chaim Naeh.[22]

This machlokes also applies to Birkas Hamazon, bracha acharona and Seudas Shabbos. According to Machzeh Eliyahu, the bran would not count towards the shiur (e.g., to reach a kezayis), and according to Teshuvas V’hanhagos, it would. According to all opinions, the bracha rishona is either Hamotzi (on bread) or Mezonos (on cake).

Baking With Sourdough

Sourdough bread is primarily baked with wheat flour and therefore one recites Hamotzi and Birkas Hamazon; loaves may be used for lechem mishneh. There are many ways to make sourdough bread and hafrashas challah for each will depend on the factors addressed above.

As an example, if making a dough with each loaf weighing 500 grams and the starter weighing 100 grams (which adds as an additional 50 grams of flour), then for one or two loaves: there is no obligation to be mafrish. For three loaves: be mafrish without a bracha. For four loaves: it depends on the machlokes cited above.[23] For five or more loaves: be mafrish with a bracha.[24]

When kneading a shiur of dough (e.g., 2750 grams to make five loaves) in one bowl, one is simply mafrish from the entire batch.

However, if one prepares five loaves by kneading five separate doughs in five different bowls, each consisting of 500 grams of flour plus starter, one must be mitztaref the loaves (i.e., bring them together) to be obligated in hafrashas challah. To do this, all the doughs should be removed from the bowls as indicated below. Either of the following methods is acceptable:  

► Place the doughs on a large piece of parchment paper or a plastic tablecloth. Cover them with the plastic or paper so as to encase all the doughs, thereby constituting a single “kli” (vessel). Be mafrish from one of the doughs.

► Place the doughs on a table and push them together, allowing them to bond well enough so that if one is pulled from the other, a chunk is pulled off from the rest. Alternatively, place the doughs – preferably touching – into one vessel. If the dough rises above the top, cover it. Be mafrish from any part of the dough.[25]

How to Be Mafrish From Dough That Will Be Shared with Others

► At challah bakes – If many people are given a piece of dough[26] and no one has a “shiur,” there is no obligation to take challah.[27]To recite a bracha at a challah bake we recommend the following: Each participant takes a piece of dough from a large batch that was kneaded, except for one individual who takes an amount made with 5 lbs. of flour.[28] She recites the brachaout loud on behalf of all present, at which time she alone is mafrish challah from her batch. Since she has a full shiur, this hafrasha works for all the participants who wish to be included. She should burn the dough she was mafrish and bake the batch to serve at home.

When baking for Mishloach Manos If one kneads a large batch of dough with the intention of distributing the baked goods (e.g., challos to neighbors), one is mafrish challah without a bracha.[29] To recite a bracha, she must retain dough for consumption at her home[30] made from at least 3 ⅔ lbs. of flour.[31]

[1] When we refer to dagan, we mean flour made from chameishes minei dagan – wheat, barley, spelt, rye or oats. For additional halachos relating to hafrashas challah and Seudas Shabbos addressed in earlier issues of Kashrus Kurrents, see

[2] One is not mafrish challah when kneading less than this amount. Note halachic measurements are by volume (e.g., cups), not weight – see Pischei Teshuva Y.D. 98:2. The weight of flour measured by “cup” can be more or less based on sifting, settling and moisture content. Measuring by weight may be a simpler method if one knows the density. Our conversions from cups to pounds apply to domestic flour and are averages.

[3] See Shiurei Torah (3:3) where Rav Avrohom Chaim Naeh says a bracha can be recited with 2500 cc (10.5 cups).

[4] See Shiurin Shel Torah (Shiurei Hamitzvos 20) where the Chazon Ish says 4320 cc (18 ¼ cups).

[5] Bedi’eved a small piece of dough is enough.

[6] See Aruch Hashulchan O.C. 202:8 and Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchoso (54:30). Ideally, it should be eaten in less than 3 minutes (Igros Moshe O.C. 4:41). The same measurement is used for bracha achrona when eating other food.

[7] See M.B. 486:1 that a kezyais is half a beitza (including the shell). Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l told Rav Moshe Heinemann shlit”a that a beitza is the size of a large egg, which is 1.9 fl. oz. (56 ml). (In previous issues of Kashrus Kurrents, we indicated a larger shiur for a kezayis.) See also Shiurin Shel Torah (ibid. 21 and 24) that l’chatchila it is about 1.1 fl. oz. (33 ml). It’s important to  use an accurate measuring device. “1 fl. oz.” plastic schnapscups are often larger than 1 fl. oz. – be extra careful when measuring shiurim in other halachic situations (e.g., Yom Kippur, Pesach).

[8] M.B. 291:2.

[9] Shulchan Aruch O.C. 158:2. See Igros Moshe (O.C. 4:41) who disagrees.

[10] Whole oats are even less dense, so by weight the amount would be slightly lower. Spelt flour has measurements similar to wheat flour.

[11] According to the opinions that require 5 lbs. of wheat flour.

[12] One should be mafrish challah without a bracha on dough made from Molino gluten-free wheat flour (which consists of wheat starch and other flours). This is true even when kneading an amount of dough that normally requires a bracha. This safek is because the Italian manufacturer began the process by making a dough (in order to separate out the gluten). One recites Hamotzi on bread baked with this flour.

[13] However, rice flour mixed with dagan flour may count towards a shiur under certain conditions – see Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 324:9 and Shach 17. For mixtures of different dagan flours, see Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 324:2.

[14] Rice flour and brown rice flour are Mezonos and Borei Nefashos. If blended with dagan, see Biur Halacha 208:9.

[15] The percentages in this paragraph are the psak of Rav Heinemann based on responses from manufacturers regarding intent and percentages (by weight). Practically, it is difficult for a consumer to determine this information. One should consult the agency certifying the product.

[16] Regarding Kiddush b’makom seudah for someone who cannot eat any dagan, see Maaseh Ish (vol. 5, pg. 91).

[17] Rabbi Yisroel Belsky zt”l brought a rayah to this from M.B. 453:14, where it says if there is a majority of dagan, it is considered as completely dagan.

[18] Percentages are of the flour content (i.e., the water is not part of the calculation). As discussed above, the bracha rishona on this bread is Hamotzi.

[19] See M.B. 208:47 regarding bracha achrona if one did not eat three kezeisim in this case. Also see M.B. 208:48 that with sugar content, less kezeisim are necessary because the minhag ha’olam is to count the sugar (a tavlin). Thus, for a single kezayis of cake that combines flour and sugar, one is permitted to recite Al Hamichya. (See Igros Moshe O.C. 1:71 who disagrees.)

[20] See cheilek 3 simanim 75-81based on the Mishna in Challah (2:6).

[21] See cheilek 3 siman 71 – since the bran is removed with intent to put it back in, and since nowadays it is common to eat bran products.

[22] We are mitztaref this opinion with the Teshuvas V’hanhagos.

[23] See different opinions cited in “Mitzvos Involving Wheat Flour: Separating Challah With a Bracha,” above.

[24] These numbers may differ if a 50- or 150-gram starter, whole wheat flour or other grains were used. Calculations should be based on the discussions above.

[25] If five doughs that are individually less than the shiur are in five different bowls on a table or counter, they are not considered mitztaref for reciting a bracha. Above is based on Biur Halacha 457:1, Leket Haomer 6:1 thru 5 (and fn 14) and Piskei Teshuvos O.C. 457:8 (and fn 50 and 52).

[26] This applies even if regular wheat dough is used.

[27] Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 326:2. Reciting a bracha in such cases is a bracha l’vatala. The same applies when distributing dough to children in school. 

[28] Or at least 3 ⅔ lbs. according to Rav Naeh. (Oat flour would require less, as noted above.)

[29] Minchas Yitzchok 10:102. See however Kovetz Halachos (Purim 15:40) who says abrachais recited if the intent is to give it out after it is baked (e.g., for Mishloach Manos).

[30] A bracha can also be recited if a “shiur” of flour was used to bake challah that will be eaten by many individuals at a large seuda (e.g., a Purim seudah or a Sheva Brachos) at her home or someone else’s home.

[31] We are mitztaref the opinions (1) that after it is baked it is not called dividing and (2) the shiur of Rav Naeh.