Great question! In traditional recipes RapidRise yeast is sometimes used to speed up rising, but it’s recommended in Kneadlessly Simple recipes because it dissolves readily and rises reliably when mixed using ice cold water. This means you can conveniently combine RapidRise with dry ingredients, then stir in the cold water, and proceed with a slow, cool rise. This cool, slow rise is essential in the Kneadlessly Simple method, because it gives the dough time to both knead itself and develop great flavor.
When a slightly soft, moist yeast dough sits and rests for a number of hours, the natural bubbling from yeast fermentation continuously bounces and shifts dough particles around. The bubbling is barely visible but powerful! Given time, this “micro-kneading” action develops gluten just as effectively as traditional kneading. Actually, it may develop the gluten even more thoroughly, because human hands sometimes get tired and quit too soon! (Gluten is the stretchy protein that gives yeast breads structure.)
Yes! Just put the ingredients in the large mixer bowl, then mix in the liquid with the paddle—use low speed. The second stirring is usually very brief (only long enough to deflate the dough) although you can do this with a heavy duty mixer also. But remember to switch to the dough hook—after its first rise the dough will be rubbery (from the gluten development).
Your aunt’s breads were very likely made using the usual, more familiar, “direct” method. Breads prepared that way just don’t brown as deeply or quickly as those produced using the cool, slow-rise method. The long, slow rise allows more time for certain chemical changes that promote browning and rich, satisfying flavor.
Deep browning is one hallmark of today’s artisan-style breads—artisan bakers feel fuller browning produces fuller flavor. Still, this is matter of personal taste. If you like a slightly lighter color, just lower the baking temperature 25 degrees F from what the recipe indicates, then bake a little longer. Also, cover the loaf top with foil (shiny side out) at the point you want to slow down the browning.
“Kneadless” bread was the completely natural way people first made bread thousands of years ago—before they discovered that by pulling, beating, stretching, stirring, or otherwise “kneading” wheat doughs they could speed up gluten development. They just mixed the dough, then waited until it naturally kneaded itself. But over the many centuries, the original, kneadless way was mostly forgotten, except in some very remote areas where it is still used. Today, with so many people too busy to stay home and tend dough, the effortless, let-it-sit-and-ready-itself approach is ideal. We call the super-convenient and easy Kneadlessly Simple method used in Nancy Baggett’s book a “breakthrough” because it’s exciting and new to so many modern bread bakers.
These doughs are slightly moist, and the long, cool rise gives the flour plenty of time to absorb water, or “hydrate.” As a result, breads need to be very thoroughly baked to ensure they are done all the way through; never under-bake them. (And always check inside their inside doneness with a skewer or thermometer as directed in recipes.) The big advantage of thorough hydration is that the loaves also stay moist and fresh longer than most traditionally prepared breads.
You can reduce the salt by one-third, but should not completely eliminate it. Salt not only improves texture and flavor, but also keeps the yeast from become too fizzy and overactive. This is true for all yeasted doughs. When reducing salt, keep in mind that the dough may rise faster than normal.