Blessing in the Middle of the Meal
In the previous Halachot we have explained that one would not recite a blessing on any foods eaten during a bread meal, for the blessing of “Hamotzi Lechem Min Ha’aretz” on the bread exempts them. Since the bread is the main part of the meal, its innate importance causes one not to bless on foods eaten after it.
However, this only applies to foods eaten during the meal “as part of the meal”, meaning foods that come to satiate and nourish a person or foods that are eaten with the bread, but desserts served at the end of the meal are not considered “part of the meal” and they are not exempt with the blessing on the bread. Rather, one must recite the appropriate blessings on them before partaking of them.
Fruits and Assorted Nuts and Seeds Served at the End of the Meal
Thus, if fruits, such as grapes or figs, are served at the end of the meal, if one eats them alone, without bread, he must first recite the “Borei Peri Ha’etz” blessing before eating them. However, one will not recite a Beracha Acharona (blessing after eating a given food) on them, for since they are eaten during the meal, Birkat HaMazon will exempt them.
Similarly, if assorted nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, or sunflower seeds, are served at the end of the meal, one must recite a blessing before eating them but he would not recite a Beracha after eating them for they will be exempt with the Birkat HaMazon.
Ice Cream Served at the End of the Meal
There is a dispute among the Poskim if one must recite a blessing on ice cream served at the end of the meal or not. At first glance, it would seem simple that one should recite the “Shehakol” blessing on ice cream for it is not usually eaten with bread nor is it a staple food of the meal, rather it is eaten as a dessert. Thus, it would seem as though its Halacha would be the same as fruits, assorted nuts, and sweets in that one would have to recite a blessing on them at the end of the meal.
Nevertheless, some of the great Poskim are of the opinion that one does not recite a blessing on ice cream eaten at the end of the meal for ice cream is nothing but a frozen beverage since after a while it will melt back into liquid form. Thus, just as one would never recite a blessing on beverages during the meal, even if the beverage is sweet, since beverages are considered as part of the meal, the same Halacha applies to ice cream that one would not recite a blessing before eating it since it is beverage-based.
In the Sefer Ohr LeTzion (Volume 2) it is brought in the name of Hagaon Rabbeinu Ben-Tzion Abba Shaul zt”l, the late Rosh Yeshiva of Porat Yosef, that there is a distinction between dairy ice cream and Parve ice cream, for dairy ice cream can be considered a food as long as it is still frozen, while Parve ice cream will always be considered like a beverage. He proves this from the words of the Rambam regarding an unrelated issue. However, even according to this opinion, ice cream consisting of whipped egg-whites would in fact require a blessing during the meal.
The Proper Procedure Regarding Eating Ice Cream
Thus, although one who recites a blessing on ice cream during the meal has on whom to rely, it is nevertheless preferable not to bless on ice cream during the meal as per the opinion that ice cream is considered a beverage. It is thus better to hold off eating the ice cream until after Birkat HaMazon, at which point one must recite a blessing on it according to all opinions.
One should make an effort to be stringent about this especially during the Shabbat meals when the Kiddush is recited on wine at the beginning of the meal and the blessing on the wine exempts any other beverages served during the meal. It is thus possible that the ice cream was exempt like any other beverage, even though it is in solid form while still frozen. Such was the procedure followed by Maran Shlit”a upon being served ice cream at the end of the festive Simchat Torah meal, that he asked that the serving of the ice cream be delayed until after Birkat HaMazon because of the aforementioned reasons.
Summary: If desserts, such as fruits, assorted nuts, and the like, are served at the end of the meal, one must recite the appropriate blessings on each item, be it “Borei Peri Ha’etz”, “Borei Peri Ha’adama”, or “Shehakol Nihya Bidvaro”. Regarding ice cream served at the end of the meal before Birkat HaMazon, according to the letter of the law one may recite the “Shehakol” blessing on it, however, it is preferable to delay eating the ice cream until after Birkat HaMazon, at which point one may recite a blessing on it according to all opinions. This holds true especially on Shabbat and holiday meals when Kiddush is recited over wine before the meal, as was explained above.
Regarding cakes or cookies served at the end of the meal, usually they will not require a blessing before eating them, as will G-d willing be explained at a later time.