Old-fashioned rice pudding can be stodgy, but the luscious lemon custard in this recipe adds a light, fresh note to the classic dessert. If you don't like currants, substitute golden raisins, or even leave them out. The pudding is best served warm, right out of the oven.
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 300 degrees F. Place four 1/2-cup shallow baking dishes on a rimmed baking sheet and set aside. Alternately, you can use a 3-cup ovenproof dish.
Combine the half & half, milk, vanilla bean and seeds, currants, and lemon zest in a medium-size saucepan and bring to the start of a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat and let the mixture steep for 10 minutes.
Place the egg yolks and whole eggs in a bowl and whisk to blend. Gradually whisk in the sugar. Add the hot custard very slowly, discarding the vanilla bean (or you can rinse it and save it for another use). Whisk gently until blended.
Divide the cooked rice among the baking dishes, then pour the custard mixture over the rice. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and add very hot water to come halfway up the sides of the dishes. Bake until the custard is just set, 45 to 55 minutes. Remove from the water bath and serve warm.