For the rolls: Put milk, 6 tbsp. of the sugar, 6 tbsp. of the butter, cornmeal, salt, and 6 tbsp. water into a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until thick, 8-10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and set aside until mixture is warm.
Grease a large bowl with 1 tbsp. of the butter and set aside. Combine 1 1⁄4 cups of the flour and yeast in another large bowl. Using a wooden spoon, beat in eggs and cornmeal mixture, then gradually beat in remaining flour. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 12-15 minutes. Transfer dough to greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place to let rise until doubled in bulk, 1 1⁄2-2 hours.
For the caramel: Heat sugar, milk, and butter together in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until butter melts, 5-8 minutes.
Grease two 7"×11" glass baking dishes with 1 tbsp. of the butter. Divide caramel between the dishes, scatter with pecans (if using), and set aside. Using a wooden spoon, beat cinnamon and the remaining butter and sugar together in a small bowl and set aside.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface, divide in half, and roll out to 12"×15" rectangles. Position 1 of the dough rectangles with long edges parallel to edge of work surface. Spread half the cinnamon butter along lower third of dough, then roll up to form a long cylinder and pinch seam shut. Repeat process with remaining dough and cinnamon butter. Cut each cylinder crosswise into 6 equal pieces and divide evenly between prepared dishes, arranging them cut side up about 2" apart. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Adjust oven rack to lower third of oven and preheat oven to 350°. Uncover dishes and bake rolls until deep golden brown and cooked through, 45-50 minutes. Remove dishes from oven and set aside for 1 minute, then invert rolls onto baking sheets. Serve warm.