Andy Schlauch grew up in rural Ohio, in a town "with about 10 last names," he says. Baking was a huge hobby for the women in his family, especially his mom, who baked something every Sunday.
"When I was a little kid, sometimes when I was sick from school, my mom would take me to my grandparents' house, and so I'd be hanging out with my grandma, who would always make me a baked good," he says.
Andy says his mom taught him the basics. But then, as he got older and into his 20s, he wanted to start learning the stuff his grandma was known for.
One of those things is these Caramel Pecan Rolls, one of his mother's favorites.
Schlauch, 36, says his grandma, Carol Harrington, who was a manager at a bank but had a wedding cake business on the side, taught him how to make her angel food cake and other flavored cakes he now makes every year around the holidays.
Last Christmas, he learned how to make the rolls.
"My grandma brought her cookbooks to Ohio and went through the process. I was intimidated by the yeast, but it was a lot easier than I thought it would be," Schlauch says.
This Caramel Pecan Rolls recipe starts with a base of plain yeast dinner rolls. Andy's family would make one batch for the meal, then another batch for the gooey dessert. You make the dough the same in both recipes, but in the sweet recipe, the dough is topped with cinnamon, sugar and looped into individual rolls, kind of like a classic cinnamon roll.
"My favorite thing was dinner rolls at Christmas. They would be the last thing my grandma would prep for dinner," Schlauch says. "She would always pull them out of the oven while we were there, so by the time we sat down to dinner they were all still warm. They are a yeast-risen dough, so they have that sweet yeast taste."
Schlauch, who is director of the Chihuly Collection in St. Petersburg, now bakes often for his co-workers. For him, the precision of the process is cathartic and helps takes his mind off everything else. He'll likely bake something for everyone this year, and the rolls especially are usually made with the sharing spirit in mind. In a couple of weeks he'll go back to Ohio for Christmas, where he'll make the dessert for his mom, his brother and his brother's family, who haven't had it in a long time.
"I always make them for somebody," he says.