Spring pruning (malus or prunus this time)

I have several malus and prunus trees that in the past I’ve pinched or pruned quite early in the spring and haven’t had great results with trying to get more ramification. This year I’m trying to let the new shoots elongate further and give the plants more energy back prior to pruning, which I hope will translate into better backbudding. I’m trying to decide how long to let the shoot growth go before cutting back. (I’m in California so we have a fairly long season.) The shoots have been elongating now since mid to late February so now my malus and prunus species have sent out 12-18 inch shoots and there are 15 or so leaves out.
Here’s the point of my thread. On one or two of the streams here I recall hearing that it’s okay to prune once the new growth has hardened off. My question is, when you have an elongating shoot, it’s hard to say when that is. On my 12 inch shoots the first several sets of leaves have hardened off but the tips are, of course, new growth, as the shoot is still elongating. So does hardened off mean once the shoot is done extending and everything is hardened off or rather is it a moving target as the shoot is elongating?
My gut feeling is that the longer I wait, the more energy the tree is storing, and the more vigor the tree will have when I prune it back (hence more likely to ramify/back bud better.) But if I wait too long, we’ll be in mid summer, and there will be heat pressure on the plant and the new growth may struggle more. Also (being in a long growing season,) the earlier I cut it back in the spring, the more chance I can do this again later in the summer and potentially get another branch junction to occur.
Any thoughts on this?