1.Bring water to a boil in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan. Remove from heat, add sugar and stir until dissolved. Return the pan to the heat and bring to a boil and sprinkle with cream of tarter. This may make the syrup boil up, so be ready to stir with a long-handled wooden spoon. Brush down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in warm water. Place a warmed candy thermometer in the pan and boil, uncovered and without stirring, until it reaches 234 degrees F, the soft-ball stage for a soft fondant or 245 degrees F for a firmer fondant. Do not beat the fondant mixture in the saucepan as this will make it slightly granular.
2.Meanwhile, sprinkle a marble slab or a baking sheet (inverted over a rack) with cold water. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the syrup onto the wet surface, without scraping the bottom of the pan. Let the syrup cool for 5 to 10 minutes. (If on a baking sheet, the mixture will be thicker and may take up to 30 minutes longer to cool.) When you can place your hand over the fondant and feel no heat rising, test a corner by touching it with a fingertip. If it holds the indentation, it is ready to work.
3.Use a spatula, a candy scraper, or even a clean putty knife to work the syrup by lifting and folding, always from the edges to the center, then stir in a figure-8 pattern, pushing the fondant back out to the sides. When the mixture begins to turn white, dust your hands with powdered sugar, gather the mixture into a ball, then push it outward with the heel of your hand. Draw it back in with a candy scraper and repeat the process until the surface is smooth and creamy looking.
4.After kneading the fondant, shape it into a ball and cover it with a damp cloth or paper towel. Tightly cover the ball with plastic wrap or place it in a sealable plastic bag. Let the fondant ripen in a cool place overnight; it gets better day by day. If not using it for several days, replace the damp cloth or towel whenever it dries out. To keep the fondant for several weeks or months, store it in the refrigerator. When ready to use the fondant, dust a work surface with powdered sugar or cornstarch or a light smear of shortening.
5.To color fondant, place it on the work surface dusted with powdered sugar. Make several slashes in the mass and use a toothpick to dot in a few drops of food coloring paste. Knead and fold the mass to distribute the color evenly
To flavor fondant, work in the flavoring the same way. Use one of the following:
*1 to 2 teaspoons vanilla, almond extract, or rose or orange
*3 to 5 drops oil of peppermint or anise oil
*1 tablespoon Grand Marnier, kirsch, framboise, or other
*2 teaspoons grated orange or lemon zest
*1/2 cup shredded sweetened dried coconut
*2 to 4 ounces bittersweet, semisweet, milk, or white
*1/3 cup peanut or hazelnut butter
*1/2 cup almonds or walnuts, toasted and chopped
*1/3 cup finely chopped dried cherries, candied orange peel,
or candied ginger
To shape fondant, make sure the mixture is at room temperature. Dust the work surface generously with: Powdered sugar. You may find it easier to work with only half of the fondant at one time. Form it into a long cylinder by rolling it on the work surface, then cut into candy-size pieces or mold it into shapes. To use fondant as coating, heat it in the top of a double boiler set over barely simmering water. If it is too thick, add 1 tablespoon hot water at a time and stir until the proper consistency is reached. Be careful not to heat the fondant over 140 degrees or it will become too stiff.