I dived into bread baking a few months ago. I read all the books I could get my hands on, sought out videos on technique, made some terrible breads....And I'm now actually starting to get a feel for it. But my comment is this: at first I assumed that much of successful bread baking was precise weighing of stipulated recipe ingredients. I have a great balance beam scale that will weigh to the fraction of a gram and I would look with disdain at any recipe that did not specify in precise metrics. I
ve seen others do the same on this Blog e.g. comments on the recipe errors in Leaders book, etc. Now I think differently...I've learned through some hard experience that a bread that may take 450 grams of flour one day with one batch of flour in the Winter in the midwest, may only be able to absorb 380 grams come Spring with a different flour...even if it's the same brand of flour as you used in the Winter. So what does that say about all this focus on recipe ingredient precision? Yes, I still weigh the various flours, S.D. starter, etc. But no longer the water. Now I like making a well with the flours and starter/poolish/biga and then slowly add the water until it gets to the point I feel is enough. To do otherwise could very well invite disaster regardless of the recipe. Now my strong focus on weighing/recipe precision has largely been replaced with a concern and focus on developing a feel for things like just when I've added enough water, when I've kneaded enough, when the first fermentation and final proofing should be ended, etc. That's why I now have shelved my mixer and really enjoy manually kneading...because it enhances that very important feel vs. throwing in the mixer. I still feel that precision is important e.g folding during fermentation, autolyse, defering the addition of salt, etc. And I've learned a lot from books like Hamelman's Bread on matters/techniques such as that. But even from the best books, I've learned to to replace my focus on following recipe ingredient precision with feel.
I'd love to see comments from fellow bread bakers on this.