Man you guys are either going to make me really good at math and very knowledgable about the weights of different baking ingredients (hmm, one cup of American bread flour is approx 136g), or I'm going to put a cheap kitchen scale on my wishlist. I have heard the argument that weighing leads to better accuracy and easier repetition of successful bakes, but my question is this: if so much is done by feel, what does it matter? The same flour could desire less or more water depending on age and other factors. I've been drooling over many of the recipes posted here and have attempted to convert some of them to volume measurements, but haven't had the confidence to go ahead with a bake yet. I just tried Reinhart's Pain a l'Ancienne (the second handmade bread I've ever made, with the first being a sourdough loaf from a cookbook I have) and it's quite wonderful, especially the next day toasted with some butter. But it was only because of his detailed description of how wet the dough should be (should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom) that I was able to figure it out. I used his volume measurements, with the minimum amount of water, and my dough was very dry still. I think in the end I used more than his maximum amount of water, but I just kind of sloshed the extra in without measuring and so I have no idea. If I had done this by weight, would I have needed to add extra water or would it have been close to perfect from the beginning?
Should I really really really buy a scale or can't I just learn how to bake by feel? Shiao-Ping's open crumbs make me drool, and with Dom and LeadDog making croissants and all the other recipes on this site, I'm getting pretty anxious to dive deeper into sourdough!