I have made both the classic and the speedy version of the no-knead bread recipe provided by Mark Bittman in the New York Times. The one change I make is that I use active dry yeast rather than instant, simply because I don't typically have the latter at hand. I measure out the amount of water the recipe calls for, take out a quarter cup or so, heat it for a few seconds in the microwave so that it is warm (but not hot), dissolve the yeast in the warmed water, then add the dissolved yeast and the rest of the water to the flour to make the dough.
In the video that accompanies the speedy bread recipe, Jim Lahey suggests using hot water and adding a couple drops of red wine vinegar. The last couple of times I tried the recipe, I tried those suggestions. I separated out the water for dissolving the yeast and heated the rest beyond merely warming as needed for the yeast. I warmed the water for the yeast as usual. I added the hot water and a couple drops vinegar to the flour and gave it a couple of stirs first before adding the yeast water, as I thought the yeast would die if it came in contact with the hot water.
Both times, the bread was disastrous. The dough simply failed to rise sufficiently. Instead of more than doubling in size in four hours, it looked as though it had gotten to perhaps 1.5 times the original size, and it was quite smooth, like kneaded dough, instead of bubbly and stringy as the no-knead dough is supposed to be.
The first time, I thought I had made a mistake and added too little yeast, so I didn't think too much about it. The second time, though, I know I measured out the right amount of yeast and I was pretty careful in following the procedure. So I'm trying to account for the lack of rising. A little research suggested that perhaps the vinegar didn't help the yeast to rise, as it ordinarily would, but overwhelmed and killed the yeast.
I used a stainless steel bowl for mixing dough and letting it rise. I know that using stainless steel is generally fine, but perhaps it's a bad idea to add vinegar to the dough if I'm using stainless steel? Would this account for the lack of rise in the dough?
What other reasons might there be for the failure of the dough to rise? I tested my yeast with sugar dissolved in water and it's fine. Thanks!