I've been using this site for well over a year but I just now signed up to use the forums! It's been very helpful to me and helped me to get into sourdough baking successfully.
That being said, I was wondering how many of you are actually very careful to weigh all of your ingredients? To me, it seems almost a moot point since our individual temperatures and humidity levels can affect the bread so much. Since gaining some experience in baking, I almost always prefer going by the feel of the dough rather than by listed ingredients.
Also, I often will add random things into my sourdough loaves just to see how they will turn out. Cooked vegetables frequently jump into my dough. I am positive that this effects the moisture of the dough, but I haven't seen it as a problem yet. Maybe that's because I'll eat my bread no matter how it turns out!
Here's a link to one of my recent recipes that was highly experimental: http://www.theyrenotourgoats.com/in-the-kitchen/no-knead-harvest-sourdough/
Anyone else careless (or brave) with measuring your ingredients?
I sort of wonder whose they are :)
My feeling is that it depends a bit on the individual. Some people like to think of it a bit like science class when everything had to be just so while others think, what the heck, it will all turn out in the end.
Whilst you are right about humidity and moisture content of flours varying, I think it helps for beginners to err on the side of 'accuracy' until they get the idea of how it looks and feels. Then, if it suits your style, you can go for the 'dash of this and a dash of that approach' or you can persist with the precision approach.
I recall my mother making magnificent sponge cakes with her decidedly non-standard 'polly' (handles broken off - cf 'poll' cattle with horns removed ) china cups as the only measure of flour and liquids and eggs as they came from the chook while others, with accurately measured ingredients and standardised eggs, made what could best be called pale imitations. But, she never made bread and when questioned, the reply was - she had tried it once and it didn't work!
And, as you say, it is rare for whatever production to be so bad as to be inedible and looks aren't everything.
Good luck with your projects.
I gave up measuring anything a long time ago. Once I had down in my head roughly how the dough should look and feel I gave up measuring and decided to to wing it. It's way more fun and means that in one week I may eat cheese bread, cherry bread, cocnut bread, buckwheat with seeds and plain.... it's very rare I end up with something inedible and from every baking I learn something. Dough really isn't delicate stuff. It's a lot more fun to experiment!
For me it's really about being able to get consistant results. Flavor profiles can come down to how much of which items you add.
Howerer that being said, I also go by feel when it comes to moisture. If the dough feels a little dry, will add a bit more water. Like Farinam said, "if it suits your style"!
I never measure what goes into my sourdough culture, but can be obsessive about measuring ingredients for doughs. I think it is best, either way, to concentrate on the feel of the dough because batches of flour, humidity, etc. vary. Of course, one gambles that a bread won't come out well, but it is good to experiment and have successes as well as learning experiences.