When I took a pie and tart cooking class at Sur la Table, our chef/instructor recommended using vanilla bean paste in place of vanilla extract. He said that vanilla bean paste provides more flavor, and he uses it in all of his baking.
I substituted vanilla bean paste for both the extract and the seeds when I made homemade vanilla ice cream (click here for the vanilla ice cream post). I didn’t think it was possible, but the vanilla bean paste made the recipe even better-it gave the ice cream a more intense vanilla flavor, but without the alcohol aftertaste of vanilla extract. I've also used it when baking cookies and cakes-it really does improve everything! Like my instructor, I now always use vanilla bean paste in place of vanilla extract.