My schedule is such that it is often inconvenient for me to follow a bread-baking recipe whose instructions extend over more than one or two days. For example, I see recipes for baguettes that involve creating a pre-fermented dough, allowing it to evolve over 24 hours or more, and then proceeding to a second, final stage in which the pre-ferment is incorporated with more flour and other ingredients into a final dough for rising, shaping and baking.
Best for me would be the ability to halt the process after the pre-ferment has evolved optimally until some time in the future when it is convenient to proceed with the second stage. My questions:
Is it acceptable/feasible/likely to have no adverse effect upon the quality of the final result to FREEZE the pre-ferment until I am ready to thaw and use it in the final phase? If so,
After how many days of slowly evolving in the refrigerator is it optimal to freeze the pre-ferment, or does that answer depend largely on trial and error with each individual recipe? I have seen highly variable statements in different cookbooks on this subject. Most authors state they recommend “at least 24 hours” in the refrigerator to help develop flavor but several say that flavor is to be gained with as much as three days of refrigerated fermentation. No one condones leaving a pre-ferment indefinitely refrigerated. After how much time would you recommend using the refrigerated, unfrozen pre-ferment promptly or discarding it because more time will only degrade it?
Thanks to the community in advance for responding to these questions.