The Beracha on Doughnuts and Sufganiyot

The traditional Sufganiya, and all doughnuts, present an interesting conundrum in Hilchos Berachos for G-d fearing Jews.

The Shulchan Aruch in Orach Chaim 168:13 states that any boiled or deep-fried dough is automatically Mezonos and not HaMotzi. However, he subsequently quotes a dissenting opinion, and concludes that a “Yarei Shomaim” should cover both opinions and only eat them during a bread meal. Since he is referring to an unsweetened dough, the HaMotzi at the commencement of the meal would cover the boiled or fried pastry as it was clearly not a dessert.

However, for our doughnuts this inconvenient solution would be insufficient. Since they are sweet and unquestionably a dessert food, they would not necessarily be exempted from an independent Bracha.  This is because the HaMotzi at the beginning of a meal only covers foods eaten for nourishment and sustenance, but not merely for pleasure. Generally speaking all desserts require their own Beracha, with the notable exception of pastries which meet the qualifications of Pas HaBa’ah b’Kisnin and are possibly HaMotzi themselves.

Especially problematic is that according to the primary ruling that boiled dough is not bread, they would certainly require a new Bracha, exactly the situation we were trying to avoid by washing. Only the minority opinion that considers them bread, or possibly Pas HaBa’ah b’Kisnin, would provide a dispensation. Obviously, we have gained nothing if we are forced to abandon the mainstream Halacha in favor of an alternative minority view.

Various Poskim suggest a number of different ideas to define the Sufganiya as a simple Mezonos and avoid the issue altogether by suggesting that all authorities would concur regarding their Beracha, but none of them are completely satisfying. Many of them revolve around attempting to classify donuts as Pas HaBa’ah b’Kisnin, according to the opinion they would otherwise be HaMotzi, and render them unquestionably Mezonos. One of the flaws with this methodology is that the size of the average Sufgania today would be considered a full meal and would obligate one to make HaMotzi according to that opinion. Consequently, we have still failed to discover a unanimously acceptable consensus that Mezonos is the appropriate Beracha.

The perfect resolution would require one to wash for bread and then make Mezonos on Bisli, a wafer or some other item that is Mezonos and clearly not a bread, therefore requiring a Bracha when eaten as dessert. Alternatively, Mezonos could be made on any pastry prior to washing with explicit intention to cover the doughnut. Both of these solutions require washing for bread and are very limiting on peoples’ desire to snack on a donut. Furthermore, this is clearly not the predominant Minhag. In fact the Rama already observes that the Minhag is to follow the Mezonos opinion, though it is doubtful from his language if he approves. It would appear that the Minhag in this case may be not to have Yiras Shomaim, a troubling thought.

In conclusion, the basic requirements of Halacha are satisfied if one says Mezonos on a doughnut or Sufgania, whether eaten as dessert or separately. It is recommended for one who is on the appropriate spiritual level to wash and also recite Mezonos on a different item, but there is some justification for the common practice of not doing so.

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