Maybe the fact that it;s been 3 years since you started baking bread, KY, that you rely more on the tools.
You misunderstand, Siduri. I said I'd been serious about baking bread for three years. Not the same thing as just starting. Fact is, I've been baking bread since Lazarous was a corporal. But that entailed slavishly following a recipe that was, more often than not, given in volume measurements. Until my hands gave out I always kneaded by hand---because dough is a living, tactile thing, and that's the only way you can truly learn what a "good" dough is supposed to feel like. But at no time, in all those years, did I have even a glimmer of understanding about the process, no feel for the mystical transformation of flour, water, salt and yeast into bread.
So, I produced a lot of very acceptible bread, bread that, compared to store bought, was exceptional. But that's all it really was; acceptible bread. What I didn't have was a clue about how to improve it.
The interesting thing, since I became serious about bread making, is that I don't know a single serious baker who sees all the special techniques and equipment as anything more than tools to help them make better bread. Not a one of them has the attitude that you must do it this way, or that their approach is somehow purer than anyone elses. Not one of them who won't reach out and help a beginner. Not one who won't happily decomplicate the process and show a newbie how to make a simple pan bread.
Seems to me, if beginners are confused or intimidated it's because they try to skip the learning stages and jump right in to advanced techniques. That's certainly not the fault of those who already know those techniques, or of the authors of advanced baking books. There are 12 steps to baking bread; the same steps apply whether it's a simple loaf bread or a complex artisan loaf calling for preferments and retarded fermentation and three days worth of prep time. If somebody isn't willing to learn those 12 steps, that's their decision. But don't accuse me of making things complicated because I took the time to do so.
Sure, there's a lexicon that could be confusing to newbies. But every field has it's own jargon. But unlike cooking in general, the one for bread making is easy to learn, cuz there ain't that many special terms. And when it is used it's more meaningful. In the old days, if a recipe said "let it rest ten minutes" I did so, without knowing why. Nowadays, a formula might use the word "autolyse" instead. But I understand exactly why I'm doing it, and what's happening to the forming dough. Again, if you don't want to learn the proper terms, that's your decision. I don't know anyone who will fault you for that. But, by the same token, don't blame me if you don't understand the language---especially as it tends to be used among equals. My friend who doesn't bake, for instance, would never hear the term from my lips; not until he had some loaves under his apron.
I'm really pleased that you were able to learn how to bake by trial and error. But you are an exception. The fact is, unlike cooking, baking is not intuitive. Ingredients are there for specific reasons. Sure, you can (despite what some of the literature says) play with quantities to a certain degree. But there are rough ratios that must be adhered to or all you get is an acceptible loaf, and ingredients that must be included. And there are effects that are determined by when you add ingredients as well as what they are.
I would suggest that if the typical person tried learning to bake bread the way you claim to they would face a lot of frustration. And make some really bad loaves. And they'd give it up, rather quickly, as being too complicated.
Finally, although I'm sure you don't mean them this way, your posts on this subject really come across as being holier than thou, as though your way was decreed by the baking Gods, and anyone who doesn't do it that way is, somehow, a sinner.