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Don't get cranky - ice cream isn't as hard to make as it used to be

Whether it's frozen yogurt, sorbet or traditional scoops, nothing says "welcome to summer" like a cool bowl of ice cream. Some may argue that homemade ice cream isn't worth the hassle. What with the salt, the cranking and the freezing, maybe it's just easier to drive to the store.

Well, those naysayers are wrong. Sure, making ice cream at home isn't as simple as heading to the local grocer's freezer, but where's the fun in that?

Several new ice-cream makers on the market have simplified the procedure, so making homemade frozen treats has never been easier. Or more delicious.

Some people like their ice cream plain - no frills, no sauce, no added topping. But adventurous taste buds long for extra flavors to savor, and with the Cuisinart Mix It Soft-Serve Ice Cream Maker, you can have it both ways. This professional-grade machine mixes up traditional flavors and includes a cone holder and three built-in condiment dispensers to blend sprinkles, chocolate chips and other toppings into your dish.

As the mixer is fully automatic, all you have to do is pour in the ingredients and set the dial. Ice cream pours down the chute into cups or cones, with no need for scooping. A double-insulated freezer bowl keeps temperatures cold, and in about 20 minutes the machine can make 1.5 quarts of soft ice cream. No chemicals, salts or ice are required, and all parts can be removed for easy cleaning. Retailing for $129, the ice cream maker is sold at area home stores.

Rival's White Mountain Freezer Traditional Ice Cream Maker aims to take users back to the summertime traditions of their childhood, but without all the hard work. The electric maker uses a triple-motion gear to mix and beat the ingredients, resulting in a smooth, creamy ice cream after about 30 minutes of mixing inside the pine freezer tub. Cast-iron blades and an aluminum canister ensure the machine will be long-lasting, and the commercial-grade motor means you can mix in anything from nuts and berries to chunky, chocolatey goodness.

If you're looking for something even more traditional, White Mountain also makes a hand-crank machine. The electric model retails for $199 and the crank-turn retails for $169. Both are sold at select home stores and online at www.rivalproducts.com.

Although the Sassafras Ice Cream Maker is tagged as children's cookware, this simple gadget is ideal for any member of the family. There's no need for cranks or salt - merely mix raw ingredients, pour them into the maker, push the freeze button and stick it in the freezer. After four hours, you'll have homemade ice cream or sorbet. The maker can create two flavors at once and runs on four AA batteries. The Sassafras model is less expensive than most ice-cream makers on the market, but it's also smaller, producing about two servings. The ice-cream maker retails for $19.95 and is sold online at www.kidsbaking.com. Or, call 800-537-4941.

Staff writer Anna Ferguson is trying to outfit her new but bare kitchen. She can be reached at 770-963-9205, ext. 1308 or at anna.ferguson@gwinnettdailypost.com.