For my Dad's 70th birthday party, a family pot-luck gathering, I made chicken and baked bread. Both came out well, but one of the two loaves (one baked into a "7" and the other into a "0"), the country French, got the most compliments, and Moomin Light asked that I bake it again.
So the next day I got out the bread machine cookbook where I had found it. I thought to myself, "Well this isn't really my bread recipe - I just got it from this book." I prefer to make up my own breads.
Then I looked at the recipe and remembered all that I'd changed... I altered two quantities (bumped both up) and then I TOTALLY changed the way it gets baked. I did let the bread machine do the mixing, kneading, and proofing (perfect gadget for that) - but then I took out the finished dough before it could bake and experimented with it. I had heard that the chewy crusted rough French breads I love in restaurants (like Parizade in Durham) were made with water spray and multiple oven temperatures. After doing some more Internet research I decided how I wanted to adjust things and got the results I'd been after for years.
By the time I got done writing my changes on this recipe, I felt better. There's nothing wrong with following a recipe - but I'm itchy until I've fiddled with things to understand the way they work, and to make the end result more my own.
The loaf pictured above (standing on end to keep it from drying out) was about 18 inches long, and two thirds of it vanished in one lunch. I dipped most of my share in olive oil with basil and pepper, and two more thin slices were around a chicken salad I tossed together from the leftover chicken. No recipe for the salad - but I can't discuss that here, because family reads this and they're in denial about some of the ingredients of my best sandwich spreads (chicken or egg).