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White Space, the innovative Pacific Place pop-up space that’s been housing a revolving door of local food brands, was recently helmed by handmade dessert and doughnut creators Hole Foods.

Thanks to Hole Foods’ bounty of fantastical fillings (think Mango Sago and Peanut Butter Condensed Milk) carefully placed within doughy bites of perfection, their creations quickly became sell-outs.

Here, The Style Sheet sits down with co-founders Hannah and Winson to find out more about the inspiration and process behind their edible artisanal craft.

Hole Foods founders Hannah and Winson at the Pacific Place White Space pop-up

Your White Space pop-up at Pacific Place was a hit! What was the experience of your first temporary store like?

‘We were extremely lucky and are so grateful to Pacific Place for the opportunity to kick off White Space. It was completely beyond our expectations. As it was our first pop-up, we had mixed feelings — we were nervous but super excited. We started each day at 3:30 a.m. and ended at 8 p.m., doing everything from dough making to sales, cleaning and after-sales. Hectic, but totally worth it!’

Tell us a bit about your roles in the business and how you work together.  

Everything that comes out of the business is done by us. We both handle dough operations (the dough making, cutting, rolling, frying, etc.) but on the back side of things, Winson handles a lot of the finance, logistics, as well as making sure our doughnuts are fried to perfection. Hannah focuses more on the marketing, service, and research and development.

You make your doughnuts from scratch. How long does it take to make a batch of doughnuts, and what’s the trickiest or most critical part of the process?

‘Our dough is made the day before, giving it about an 18-hour fermentation process. So, if you cut that part out and focus on the day, it takes about six to seven hours to complete everything from cutting, weighing and rolling to proofing, frying, sugaring and filling. The trickiest part most definitely would be the fermentation process. Anything and everything can go wrong! Our dough goes through three stages, and if any one of those stages has a hiccup, we either have to start again or have no product to sell on the day. You can do everything right, but yeast is an amazing thing that has a mind of its own.’

What characteristics classify the best doughnut?

‘This is quite subjective, but to us, we think that a doughnut should have a crisp bite but once you bite into it, you can feel the softness of the dough. The outer layer should feel like a buttery crumb with a white ring around the doughnut, meaning it proofed properly.’

What flavour has been your most popular, and what inspired that doughnut?

‘We get this question a lot! We’ve had three flavours that have come back a couple of times and have been voted as favourites by our customers: Apple Pie, Mango Sago and Peanut Butter Condensed Milk.

Apple pie is a traditional treat in most countries, and each country has its own rendition. Making apple pie and apple crisp was a traditional holiday treat Hannah would make each year at home for friends and family, and when Thanksgiving rolled around last year, she thought why not stuff it into the doughnut and see what happens!

Mango Sago and Peanut Butter Condensed Milk was an exploratory adventure we took on classic desserts and snacks in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has an incredible history with iconic snacks, but matching them with dough is the tricky part. These two flavours worked really well, and both were hits.

A lot of the flavours that we come up with are really inspired by our upbringing. We come from different backgrounds and bring different experiences, which makes the research and development process so much more fun.’

Doughnuts seem to be having a bit of a resurgence the world over the last few years. Why do you think that’s so?

‘Everyone has probably eaten a doughnut at some time in their life, most likely during childhood, which brings out a nostalgic factor. And now there’s an increase in choices, more and more customers are looking for it. Similar to Korea, where it’s suddenly grown into this massive industry where you'll find queues at all doughnut stores.

A lot of doughnut brands are trying to create different flavours and textures within the product: soft, crunchy, chewy… things you never thought could go on or in a doughnut are putting a whole new twist on them! Our best guess is that a doughnut is a treat that gives comfort and is a quick “to-go” item.’

There’s also been a big rise in dessert brands in Hong Kong gaining popularity via Instagram. Why do you think that is?

‘COVID is definitely a significant factor. It gave a lot of people the time and space to explore hobbies and passions and to get creative. We’re going through a generational shift, where a 9–6 job is no longer a priority. Consumers are now shaped by unprecedented technological and social changes, giving business owners a window of opportunity to attract similar profiles.

Instagram has been an amazing tool and has really been our only platform since day one. It’s quick, eye-catching and gets information across to a large audience with just a couple of taps on your phone.’

You’ve expanded into some other delicious treats such as brownies and banana bread. What’s next for Hole Foods?

‘We’re looking to see how to expand and what makes sense for us and for our customers! We're hoping to add to our product line, as well as to expand our accessibility through pop-ups!’