Use the highest-quality whole milk and the freshest eggs you can find to make this creamy, comforting pudding. For a more basic everyday treat, simply omit the dried fruit.
1. Stir together 1 cup milk and pearl tapioca in 6-qt. Dutch oven. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean, and add seeds and scraped pod to tapioca mixture. Let steep 15 minutes.
2. Whisk together eggs and 1 Tbs. sugar in medium bowl.
3. Stir remaining 5 cups milk, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and salt into tapioca mixture. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Simmer 15 to 25 minutes, or until tapioca is transparent and mixture has thickened, stirring often with rubber spatula to prevent sticking.
4. Remove pan from heat. Whisk 1 cup tapioca mixture (using as much liquid as possible) into eggs to temper.
5. Stir egg mixture into tapioca mixture, then return pan to heat, and simmer 2 minutes more, or until pudding thickens and foam on top disappears, stirring constantly. Stir in 1 cup each dried cranberries, dried apricots, and chopped apple rings, then remove pan from heat. Let cool, stirring occasionally. Transfer pudding to refrigerator to cool completely.
6. Spoon 3/4 cup pudding into each of 8 serving glasses or bowls. Garnish with dried fruit, if using.