This section is from the book "Practical Cooking And Serving", by Janet McKenzie Hill. Also available from Amazon: Practical Cooking and Serving: A Complete Manual of How to Select, Prepare, and Serve Food .
Fondant is the basis of all French cream candies. It also makes the best frosting for éclairs and small cakes. The varieties of candies made from fondant is also limitless. This is produced first of all by the kind of sugar used in the fondant itself, as white or maple, then the white may be varied by tinting and flavoring to correspond. The flavors in general use are vanilla, almond, rose lemon, orange, peppermint and wine. The centres may be of fondant, or of nuts or French fruit, either alone or in combination. Marshmallows, gumdrops, pieces of fruit, or whole cherries, may be dipped in fondant, producing candies named from the article "dipped." To make fondant successfully, experience is needed; but, as all sugar, provided it be not absolutely burned, may be used over again for same or other purpose, time would seem to be the one item of which an outlay is required. A beginner might start out with a pound of sugar (two cups) and half a cup of water. Set over the fire and stir until boling begins, then remove the spoon and in few moments, with the hand or a brush dipped in cold water, wash down the sides of the saucepan, to remove any grains of sugar that have been thrown up in boiling. Cover again and let cook about five minutes. This process will tend to decrease, if not to obviate entirely, the accumulation of sugar on the sides of the saucepan. Now add one fourth teaspoonful of cream-of-tartar; and, if fondant is to be cooked by means of a thermometer, put the thermometer into the syrup, and let the syrup cook until the temperature rises to about 238° Fahr., the soft-ball stage. The exact degree on a particular thermometer to which the sugar needs be boiled can be accurately determined after two or three trials and marked accordingly. When boiled just right, one thermometer might indicate 236°, another 238°, and still another as high as 242°.
When the sugar is done turn it on to a large platter, or a marble or slate slab, lightly dampened with water or rubbed over with the best grade of olive oil. Let stand undisturbed until a dent can be made in the surface, then work the candy back and forth, with a wooden spatula, to a white, smooth, soft, creamy paste. While the paste is still soft and warm, gather together and knead with the hands as bread is kneaded, then press into an earthen bowl or a glass fruit jar, and cover closely with confectioner's paper, then again with a double fold of heavier paper. Store in a cool place. After twenty-four hours the fondant is ready for use.
If the syrup be jarred while boiling, or if due care be not exercised in washing down the particles of sugar from the sides of the saucepan, or the mixture be not cooled enough before working with the spatula is begun, or if it be cooked too long, the fondant will not be smooth and creamy, but granular. To remedy this water may be added and the whole process repeated.
The fondant may be made into "centres," though its principal use is for "dipping" centres of some other material, as fruit, nuts, marshmallows, etc. When it is to be made into centres, put a portion of the fondant on a large platter or marble slab and work into it such flavoring as is desired (chopped fruit and nuts may also be added), then shape into cones, balls, etc. Or, wrap a little fondant about the meat of a hazelnut, a blanched almond, a pistachio nut, or a candied cherry, and set aside on confectioner's paper several hours to harden.
Melt a portion of the fondant over hot water (double-boiler), adding a few drops of hot water, or syrup at 30°, and such flavoring as is desired. Beat constantly while the fondant is melting, also while the centres are being clipped, to avoid the formation of a crust. The fondant may be tinted at this time very delicately with color paste. Drop in the centres, one at a time, and, when well covered, remove with fork or candy tongs to a sheet of confectioner's paper, bringing the fork or clipper up over the top of each piece, to show that the bonbons were "hand dipped." Decorate at once such pieces as are to be ornamented with pieces of fruit or nuts. To decorate cones with chopped nuts, wait until the fondant is set, then dip the base delicately into the hot fondant and then into the chopped nuts. Chopped nuts may be used to give an acorn shape by dipping the round end of cone-shaped centres first in fondant and then in chopped nuts. These are very pretty when the fondant is chocolate color and the nuts are chopped almonds browned in the oven. Green-tinted cones dipped in chopped pistachio nuts are also pretty.