Place milk in a medium, heavy saucepan. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean; add seeds and bean to milk. Bring to a boil.
Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large bowl, stirring well. Combine half-and-half and egg yolks, stirring well. Stir egg yolk mixture into sugar mixture. Gradually add half of hot milk to sugar mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Return hot milk mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly with a whisk. Remove from heat. Add butter, stirring until melted. Remove vanilla bean; discard.
Spoon pudding into a bowl. Place bowl in a large ice-filled bowl for 15 minutes or until pudding cools, stirring occasionally. Cover surface of pudding with plastic wrap; chill.
Peanut Butter Pudding Variation: Omit vanilla bean, salt, and butter; stir in 1/4 cup reduced-fat creamy peanut butter after custard is cooked. Yield: 6 servings (serving size: about 1/2 cup).
CALORIES 257 (30% from fat); FAT 8.6g (sat 3.3g, mono 3.6g, poly 1.6g); PROTEIN 6.9g; CARB 39.2g; FIBER 0.7g; CHOL 80mg; IRON 0.5mg; SODIUM 170mg; CALC 142mg
Coconut Pudding Variation: Omit vanilla bean. Omit 3/4 cup milk, and replace it with 3/4 cup light unsweetened coconut milk. Omit butter; stir in 1/2 cup toasted sweetened flaked coconut after pudding is cooked. Yield: 6 servings (serving size: about 1/2 cup).
CALORIES 224 (30% from fat); FAT 7.5g (sat 5.3g, mono 1.5g, poly 0.4g); PROTEIN 4.1g; CARB 36.8g; FIBER 0.3g; CHOL 77mg; IRON 0.5mg; SODIUM 115mg; CALC 105mg