Using a vanilla bean (look for a moist and plump one) instead of extract bolsters the flavor of this pudding; fewer eggs and low-fat milk instead of traditional whole milk make this dessert a smarter choice.
Place a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl; set aside.
In a medium saucepan (off heat), whisk together sugar, cornstarch, egg yolks, and salt. Gradually whisk in milk (1 tablespoon at a time to start) until smooth. Split vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out seeds with the tip of a paring knife; add seeds and pod to milk mixture.
Cook over medium-high, whisking occasionally, until the first bubbles appear on surface; continue to cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute more. Pour pudding through prepared sieve into bowl; discard solids.
Place plastic wrap directly on entire surface of pudding to keep skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours, and up to 3 days. To serve, whisk just until smooth, and spoon into individual serving dishes.