Bill, thanks for adding your experience to the list. Maybe we can put our heads together and figure somethings out.
As I've mentioned before, I don't put sugar in my dough only b/c the LBE and the WFO pumps out enough heat. In the home oven, I can just use the broiler for browning. Now I do like sweet breads, so maybe I'll start adding just a little sugar for taste.
I think your description between a same day dough and a 2 day cold fermented dough is accurate. I can confirm that a same day dough can taste rather bland compared to a 2 day dough, but to me, it's not a HUGE change in flavor. Yes, it's there and I can taste it but it's not dramatic like the difference between a commercial yeasted dough vs a natural starter dough. Now to make matters even more complicated, last night I made a 3 hour dough with a ton of cake yeast and 1% sugar. The dough had a very nice sweet yeasty flavor to it. Very different than all my other doughs made and it was a 3 hour dough. I would probably say it had great flavor!
Now most of my past doughs have also been made with HG (bleached and bromated) flours or a blend there of so maybe you are onto something here. It would make sense that you would notice the change less in HG flours, since they are stronger flours and seemingly take longer to break down, so in the same time frame, it would make sense that the dough is breaking down less, thus less flavor change.
Scott, I'm glad you plotted down a timeline and I am incline to agree on a general basis. A lot of my really good NY style doughs have been either a 2 day cold fermented dough or a 24 hour room temp dough, producing very similar results. However, doesn't your fermentation timeline depend on the amount of yeast in the dough and cold fermentation at a somewhat standardize temperature?
If I were to use a very minscule amount of yeast in a dough, and then do a short bulk ferment prior to cold fermenting, would that dough last much longer than 5 or even 6 days without developing any alcoholic notes or beeriness?
Moreover, what temps are we talking about here for cold fermentation? 40F? 50F? 60F? Don't all 3 ranges qualify for cold fermentation?
I think you can see where I'm going with this but the same dough would likely last days longer at 40F than it would at 60F right?
Again my 6 day dough (7500/25HG) had zero beeriness, alcohol, or sour dough flavors whatsoever. It just had great texture from what I can remember. It was made with 0.3% IDY, out at room temps only for 30m, then into fridge at about 40F for 6 days, then warm proofed for less than 1 hour then baked. I think it might have even lasted a few more days in the fridge.
Obviously how long a dough will last is highly dependant on amount of yeast, type of yeast, fermentation temps, strength of dough, hydration, gluten development, and other factors I'm sure.
Currently I have 6 day dough that I will bake up on Sunday (8 days then) made with 50BF/50HG flour and 20% starter. So far i don't smell any beeriness. I'll update you after the bake to see what it does.