I have a copy of an old New Yorker cartoon where one woman is speaking to another woman about the speaker's husband who is cooking in the background. The woman says that "he's a pretty good cook even if he is recipe bound".
I'm just wondering if there are many of you out there who are like me and do most of your bread baking from principles and not from recipes. Most of the common breads I make now are created from basic principles and not from specific recipes. I usually think of the kind of crumb I want and what that means in hydration rates, how long I have to make it and therefore how long of a fermentation I can give it, whether it has heavy stuff in it (I love breads with dried fruits and nuts but no sugar) and therefore how powerful the rise has to be ... and stuff like that. I'll use a recipe when I am trying a new technique or trying to perfect a technique but once I have the specifi technique down, I most often just adapt off of it.
So, for example, a few days ago I wanted to make a special fruit and nut bread to send to a friend. I settled on one with dried cranberries, some of my candied orange peel I had in the freezer and walnuts (about 7 oz. of the mix per 1 lb of raw dough). I wanted the dough to have good fermented flavor so I made a biga to start using a wee bit of yeast. I knew it eventually had to push up a lot of fruit and nuts so I knew I would add an extra teaspoon of yeast when I mixed the final dough. I also knew, for flavor and gluten development that I would autolyse the remaining flour with the remaining water. I always make my fruit and nut breads "rustic" so a wee bit of rye and whole wheat as well as a couple of T of wheat germ to increase nuttiness. Finally, to support a relatively high fruit and nut weight I new that I needed a relatively tight crumb ... I used 66% hydration. It turned out great. But my wife wanted to know what the recipe was and shook her head when I told her I just figured it out.
So ... anyone else out there just winging it?