Timing of bulk fermentation, shaping and final proofing
Your standard recipe calls for shaping when the dough has risen to approx. twice its size during bulk fermentation (more or less depending on the recipe) and then perhaps an hour of final proof, usually ended according to the poke test.
If you were to look at this as a single extended fermentation, interrupted somewhere along the line by shaping, it raises the question why shaping is placed where it is. Could shaping be done earlier, with a longer final proof, or later, with a shorter proof? What are the tradeoffs made either way? Is it the redistribution of food for the yeasties that dictates when shaping is done? Are there recipes that manipulate when shaping is done in order to achieve a particular result?
If I happen to shape a particular dough too early or too late, I generally figure that I can make up for it on the other side by shortening or lengthening the final proof, so long as I don't underproof or overproof the dough. I simply proof until the poke test tells me to stop. Am I living in a doughy dreamland, risking dire consequences for my loaves if I don't shape when the dough is exactly doubled?
I'd be interested in the perspectives of all you knowledgeable folks.